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5 Tips to Learn Quantity Surveying Basics – Free Excel Sheet

Table of Content for 5 Tips to Learn Quantity Surveying Basics-

  1. Introduction
  2. Tip 1: Deep Dive into the Scope
  3. Tip 2: Thorough Drawing Study & Going Beyond it
  4. Tip 3: Keep it Simple & Consistent
  5. Tip 4: Follow the Code
  6. Tip 5: Present to the World
  7. Latest trends for Quantity Surveying- BIM Disruption
  8. Conclusion

Quantity surveying is the process of calculating the quantities of project scope works to meet the project objectives. A professional who practices quantity surveying is called a quantity surveyor (QS). A QS is well versed with calculations of quantities and also knows contracts and costs.

Wikipedia defines the QS as “A Quantity Surveyor (QS) is a construction industry professional with expert knowledge on construction costs and contracts……Quantity surveyors are responsible for managing all aspects of the contractual and financial side of construction projects. They help to ensure that the construction project is completed within its projected budget.” Read more about the qualifications and certification for QS here.

In this article, I am discussing the five tips to start your career as a quantity surveyor. The tips range from preparation before starting to completing the process in a logical sequence. Let us move to the tips.

Title Image

Tip 1: Deep Dive into the Scope

The scope is one of the constraints of the project. The other two constraints are time and cost. The project scope is the statement of what needs to be done to complete the project. If you are fully aware of your scope, you are already halfway through.

The scope helps you to identify the different types of works for all the stakeholders. For example, a construction project includes the activities like excavation, backfilling, foundation, columns, beams, slabs, brickwork, plaster, painting, tiling, doors & window fixing etc. At the same time works can also be distributed as per their material & specification used. For example, grade of concrete, grade of reinforcement, the thickness of brickwork, the thickness of plaster, coats of paint, type of tiles etc.

A QS should be well versed with who has to provide what. For example, as per the contract, the contractor has to only bring manpower and execute the work, while the material is being supplied by the client.

What to expect in the scope of the project?

Here are some of the documents that can help you understand the project scope better.

  • Purpose Statement
  • Contractor Responsibilities
  • Client Responsibilities
  • Contract BOQ
  • Milestones & Deliverables
  • Specifications
  • Project Execution Requirement
  • Payment & Reporting Schedule
  • Contractor Performance Evaluation
  • Liquidated Damages
  • Limitation of Liability

Tip 2: Thorough Drawing Study & Going Beyond it

After you have understood the project scope, drawings are the next step. A very common mistake made in quantity surveying is the overlooked drawing details. The quantity calculation is done from the drawings.

Here are few tips related to the drawings.

  • Use Only Latest GFC Drawings- Before using a drawing for the quantity take-off, check its’ version. Ensure you are using ‘Good for Construction’ drawing only and have the latest revision. You can refer to drawing register to check the latest update of the drawing.
  • Understand the Drawing terminology- There are various abbreviations used in the drawing such as TOC, BOF, Typ., FFL, NGL etc.
  • Go through the General Specifications & Notes- The drawings are provided with the general specifications & notes. It may include detailing of structure, RL of FFL and NGL, grade of concrete and reinforcement, considered SBC for design etc. The more familiar is terminology, the easier it is to understand the drawings.
  • Verify the Dimensions across Plans & Sections- The discrepancy in dimensions may occur. Thus, it is advisable to cross-verify the dimensions in plan and all the sections. This will help in reducing the calculation effort done for mismatched dimensions.

Tip 3: Keep it Simple & Consistent

The key to the effective presentation of data is to keep it simple and consistent. The format for quantity take-off should be comprehensive and simple. It should be borne in mind that the checker doesn’t have to look for references or multiple documents to understand the calculation.

The format should also be consistent for each element, structure, project. The familiar format helps in smooth checking and early approval of the same.

To begin with, the following points should be included in the take-off format-

  • Name of the project
  • Name of Structure/Floor/Element for which take-off is being prepared
  • Relevant Drawing Number and its’ revision
  • General Specification like grade of concrete and reinforcement, thickness of brickwork & plaster etc.
  • Name and Grid Number for each element of take-off
  • Upper & lower levels of element. It also indicates the thickness.
  • Unit of Measurement
  • Separate columns for number of elements, length, breadth, height/depth
  • Separate Column for Calculation

To avoid confusion, it is advisable to use the organization standard template or a template that has been approved by the client or consultant.

Tip 4: Follow the Code

Every country follows a certain code that states the process for take-offs. In India IS 1200 has specifications for the measurement of buildings & civil engineering works. The different parts of IS 1200 have the necessary guidelines regarding the general specifications, earthwork measurement, concrete works, brickworks etc.

The advantage of following the codes is that they are the ultimate guidelines for the process. Hence, are all over accepted. This helps in reducing the conflict in inclusions and exclusions in measurement for various works. It also allows maintaining a homogeneous format for different organizations.

Some of the commonly used parts of IS 1200 are-

  • IS 1200:1992 Part 1 Revision 4 (Reaffirmed 2002): Earthwork
  • IS 1200:1974 Part 2 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Concrete Works
  • IS 1200:1976 Part 3 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Brickwork
  • IS 1200:1976 Part 4 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Stone Masonry
  • IS 1200:1982 Part 5 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Formwork
  • IS 1200:1974 Part 6 Revision 2 (Reaffirmed 2002): Refractory Work
  • IS 1200:1972 Part 7 Revision 2 (Reaffirmed 2002): Hardware Work
  • IS 1200:1993 Part 8 Revision 4 (Reaffirmed 2002): Steel & Iron Work
  • IS 1200:1973 Part 9 Revision 2 (Reaffirmed 2002): Roof Covering
  • IS 1200:1973 Part 10 Revision 2 (Reaffirmed 2002): Ceilings & Linings
  • IS 1200:1977 Part 11 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Paving, Floor Finishes, Dado, Skirting
  • IS 1200:1976 Part 12 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Plastering & Pointing
  • IS 1200:1994 Part 13 Revision 5 (Reaffirmed 2002): Whitewashing, color washing, distempering, and painting
  • IS 1200:1984 Part 14 Revision 3 (Reaffirmed 2002): Glazing
  • IS 1200:1987 Part 15 Revision 4 (Reaffirmed 2002): Painting, Polishing, Varnishing etc.

Download the Free Excel Template to Learn Quantity Surveying Basics-

I have personally used this sheet to calculate the work quantities. The formulas have been set to calculate the excavation, soling, PCC, staging, formwork and RCC simultaneously in a single sheet.

Learn Quantity Surveying Basics- Free Excel template Screenshot
Snapshot of the Excel Template

The sheet contains a summary page that collects data from each worksheet and presents it against each head.

Learn Quantity Surveying Basics- Free Excel template Summary Sheet Screenshot
Summary Page of Excel Template

Tip 5: Present to the World

The presentation part is as important as the quantity take-off itself. If you haven’t neatly done the work, it becomes difficult to understand and causes confusion.

The work should be presented in an execution sequence. For example, excavation should be presented first followed by PCC, footings, plinth beams, columns, floor beams and slab.

Good practices involve sub-totals and totals to each sub-head and head. The document should be covered with a summary either work wise or structure-wise or both.

Latest trends for Quantity Surveying- BIM Disruption

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of creating 3D models that enhance the collaboration between stakeholders, facilitate quantity and material take-offs, visualize the project before construction. It has many other features as well. Read more about BIM here.

The 3D models are created on sophisticated software like Revit, Tekla etc. The software enables the user to generate a bill of quantities in just some clicks. The human errors are minimized and the data format is ready to use. Also, the quantities of work are updated with every change in the model.

BIM has revolutionized the AEC industry and has also made the quantity surveying process easier.


A quantity surveyor must be able to visualize the whole process of project construction before it is actually built. It takes effort, experience and hard work to do so. However, with the above listed five tips, you have read the quantity surveying basics that are enough to start your career.

The BIM is further providing ease to the quantity surveying process thus empowering the QS in a new way that is both time and cost-efficient.

Other skills required to grow as a quantity surveyor are contracts, risks, and claims. Read more about all three domains by clicking on each word.

Get the building construction cost preliminary estimation template here.

Get the material estimation template here.

Do comment and let me know if this article helped you in any way. Share with your civil engineer friends and colleagues.

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