What is the History of Quantity Surveying? 4 Important Origin to know CostEcon

It is stunning to see how vast and wide the Quantity surveying profession has developed in our world today over the past century.

It will interest you to know that this profession is known to also have its little and humble beginnings.

The profession is now one of the stronghold pillars of the Built Environment and the Construction industry.

A profession that has one of the largest single sections in the membership of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the Uk.

Some of the Activities and functions of a Quantity Surveyor were dated to be in practice even before the prevalent dominance or Embodiment of the Quantity Surveying Profession.

Simply put

“Quantity surveying works has been in practice even before the arrival of the profession”.

In this article, I’ll put you through 4 important histories of the quantity surveying profession every Quantity surveyor should know, we’d also look into quantity surveying practice in our world today. let’s start with the question! How old is Quantity Surveying?

How old is Quantity Surveying?

How old is quantity surveyingDated as far back as the Neolithic Era the need for a Costing professional to give a correct measure of what is to be built and preparation of an accurate estimate cost of what to be built has been practised over time past.

Although, at such a time, the Inaccuracies and erroneousness of such practice were very massive compared to how it’s been practiced now.

The age of the Quantity Surveying profession can not be specifically stated or pinpointed to a particular date.

Many backgrounds and strong footings regarding the emergence of the profession could be duly noted.

The History of quantity surveying practice would give us an insight into how old the Quantity surveying profession is?

1. History of the Quantity Surveying Profession

History of the Quantity Surveying ProfessionIn the 17th century, The Architects were responsible for the designs and erections of buildings. They also employ several Craftsmen who help them to perform various works in diverse specific trades or fields.

Drawings then were less detailed and of a very sketchy nature and works were mostly executed after the commencement of work.

On completion, each master craftsman will submit an account for the materials used and labor employed at the course of each work.

It later became the habit of these Craftsmen to engage “Surveyors” or “Measurers” to prepare these accounts on their behalf.

One of the major problems then was the imbalance of the amount of cost prepared for the work to be done and the actual cost incurred at the completion of the work.

During the Industrial Revolution, General Contractors became Established, they were known to submit an inclusive estimate covering the work of all trades.

They also engaged Measurers or surveyors to prepare bills of Quantities on which their estimates would be based.

Do you know

Throughout the construction of the pyramids and temples of ancient Egypt, the quantity surveyor were called the “Measurer of royal works”.

With this, it is safe to say that Quantity Surveyors were originally referred to as Measurers and Surveyors.

It was practiced this way over time not until when General Contractors devised a better means of selecting the most suitable Measurer or Surveyor among others that are best fit and most interested in preparing the bill of Quantities for the proposed work, this brought about what is known today as Competitive Tendering.

As this continues, it became a tradition for the Architect on behalf of the owner to usually appoint a Surveyor or measurer I.e a Client’s Quantity Surveyor.

This became the Origin of how the independent and Impartial Quantity Surveying Profession started and still operates today.

2. History of Quantity Surveying practice

Quantity Surveying firmThe earliest Quantity Surveying firm Recorded in history was a Reading Firm in England owned by Henry Cooper and Sons dated to be in operation as far back as 1785.

There is little or no doubt that other Quantity surveying firms were in existence at that time but Henry Cooper and Sons Firm in Reading, England was recorded to be the first in history.

It is, therefore, safe to say that the first quantity surveying firm started in the year 1785 and Henry Cooper and his sons were known to be the first quantity surveyors recorded in history.

As of 1802 a number of Scottish Quantity Surveyors met and produced the First method of measurement.

it is also safe to say that the First Quantity Surveying Method of Measurement was established by Scottish Quantity Surveyors in 1802.

3. Historical Background of Quantity Surveying

history of quantity surveyingUp to the mid-19th century, it was the practice to measure and value building works after they had already been completed, and then the Bill of Quantities was not even prepared.

The need for Quantity Surveying practice became Paramount as building works increased in volume and building owners became dissatisfied with such Unsuitable methods adopted for settling the cost of work.

Over time, as the practice progressed the understanding progressed as well, and this led to many improvements in more precise and accurate ways of practice.

Industrial Evolution and Technological advancement were also not left out in this sequence of growth and improvement as they did play a major role in the advancement of the Quantity Surveying profession.

4. The biblical history of Quantity Surveying

It might interest you to know that the History of the Quantity Surveying profession can also be traced from the bible via many references.

Going to the importance of Estimation, Cost planning & budgeting, can be traced to Luke, chapter 14:28–30, which reads

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,

30 Saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.

In terms of the importance of measurement and quantity, it can be traced to Genesis 6: 15 & 16

15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

Noah's arkThis was the Specification given to Noah by God on how the dimensions of the Ark should look.

Other Citations on precise measurement in the bible can be gotten from  Exodus chapters 26 and 27, Numbers 35:5, 1 king chapters 6 and 7, and Ezekiel chapters 40 and 41.

Quantity Surveying practice in our world today

quantity surveyorThe Evolution from the traditional Quantity surveying practice to our modern Quantity surveying practice is something fascinating.

In the mid-20th Century, Quantity Surveying continued to evolve into a much more recognizable profession in the construction industry.

With the ever-changing environment, this field has adapted to suit each marketplace as time has continued to move forward.

Today, Quantity Surveying functions involve a vast array of attributes, which includes Cost consultancy, cost planning, project management, Interim and Final account preparation, Valuation of works, Examining tenders, etc.

Due to the vast array of services that this job offers, the profession is not only construction-minded but has its relation to fields involving Law, Finance, Accounting, and Economics.

The Quantity Surveying profession is at an interesting stage, where opportunities and rewards will be high for those who are innovative, keen on research, and willing to embrace and evolve to withstand any challenges that might arise in the coming future.

The practice of the quantity surveying profession gets more involved in construction activities as well as other industries such as insurance, banking, law, etc. than any other professional in the Built environment.

Value engineering is yet another Interesting Subset of modern Quantity surveying practice in our world today.

knowledge on Value engineering helps improve the overall value of the end product or service that Quantity Surveyors provide to clients.

This in turn helps these clients get more value for their money at the most reasonable cost.

Technology in QsTechnology Advancement has also allowed for better practice in the quantity surveying profession, with the development of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and Build Information Modelling (BIM) Software.

Quantity surveyors can now tackle complex structural works that would be cumbersome to do when done manually.

They would also be able to handle civil engineering structures more accurately and precisely with the use of these quantity surveying softwares.

The workflow among the Quantity surveyor and the other construction team including the client has become fluent and easier as a result of this technological advancement.

Thanks to this softwares, Important Information among team workers and individuals could be transferred effortlessly and communication is done seamlessly.




Since childhood, I have always been captivated by the process of construction and the creation of the built environment. This passion, combined with my love of mathematics, quantitative reasoning, and logical thinking, led me to pursue a career in Quantity Surveying. As someone who is both a proficient writer and an avid reader, I am excited to continue exploring this field and contributing to the industry through my skills and knowledge.

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