Quantity Surveying Project Topics

Assessment of Quantity Surveyors Roles in Sustainable Development.(A Case Study of Lagos State)

Assessment of Quantity Surveyors Roles in Sustainable Development.(A Case Study of Lagos State)

Assessment of Quantity Surveyors Roles in Sustainable Development.(A Case Study of Lagos State)

Chapter One

Research aim and objectives

 This research aims to provide insight into the perceptions of quantity surveyors on their ability advising sustainable building developments at the project planning phase in Lagos.

The following objectives of this research to:

  • Determine the self-perception of quantity surveyors towards advising on alternative building specifications for sustainable buildings designs;
  • To understand how to recognize quantity surveyors with the appropriate knowledge to provide insights on sustainable building;
  • Establish to which degree, their willingness to give advice on sustainable building materials based on their knowledge of the building industry and previous experience;
  • Gauge the ability of quantity surveyors to influence project changes at planning stages in favour of sustainability; and
  • Identify factors that influence quantity surveying professionals to adopt a different mind-set to sustainable thinking and material.



 Sustainability in the built environment

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) describes sustainability to be a dynamic balance of social, economic and environmental elements that can be applied at an international, national and local level of an economy (RICS, 2009). It is now a globally agreed notion that sustainability should form a part of the decision-making process (Zainul-Abidin, 2008). There is a growing focus on sustainability that has led the built industry to shift more focus towards the production of buildings that are deemed to be sustainable (Berardi, 2011).

The quest for sustainability has kept governments, other bodies and players in the industry busy designing strategies, policies, regulations, laws, initiatives to push for more adoption of sustainable buildings (Arif et al., 2009). The key driving force behind this quest for sustainability has largely been emissions, which are forecasted to keep rising at par with industrial levels as energy demands by the buildings increase (IPCC, 2007). The ability of buildings to reduce these projected levels of emission to the minimal makes it credible for more attention to the building sector (IPCC, 2007). This leads to the need for sustainability rating methods to rank buildings in terms of their sustainability or greenness (Arif et al., 2009).

Principles of sustainability

For quantity surveyors to deliver on sustainable aspects of projects, practitioners should understand the principals of sustainability (SACQSP, 2012). To gain a broad view of sustainability, the principals of sustainability are broken down into three essential characteristics that can be broken down into further issues (Hill and Bowen, 1997; Edum-Fotwe and Price, 2009) namely:

 Economic sustainability

Economic sustainability relates to the exchange of goods and services. Sustainable developments have the ability to generate an increasing per capita of quality of life over a period, which leads to improved real incomes, healthier well-being and education of people, enhanced value of natural and built environments. This is enhanced through any incremental profitability that results from benefits of more efficient use of resources (Pearce, 2003). To achieve the economic benefits of green buildings the environmental and social costs must be suitably priced (Eichholtz et al., 2010)

Environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability relates to recognising the limits of our environment and the need to consume resources less to maintain a healthy state (Vanegas, 2003). This further entails avoiding irreversible environmental changes through optimal use of resources, waste management and protection (Pearce, 2003).

 Social sustainability

Social sustainability looks at improvement of the quality of life and is viewed as one of the most challenging aspects to define (Hill and Bowen, 1997) as it is an ever-evolving concept (Vanegas, 2003). It has characteristics that can vary considerably from different stakeholders having diverse views that are also dependant on the lifecycle stage of the project (Valdes-Vasquez and Klotz, 2012). For instance, at the planning phase making consideration for the local community involvement on a project or considering the impact of the project on the workers involved. There are four fundamental areas which the social characteristics embrace that is, community involvement in projects, and private sector involvement in corporate social responsibility, design safety, and societal design (Venegas, 2003).

Delving into the concept of community involvement, there is a direct link to the negative environmental consequences arising because of construction projects, local communities could however be engaged on the non-technical elements of construction (Vanegas, 2003). This does not only enable locals to derive financial gain but ensures a communal buy in into the project (Valdes-Vasquez and Klotz, 2012). When approaching social aspects from a corporate social responsibility perspective, such can be seen through the eyes of game theory (Kolk, 2003; Olander and Ladin, 2005; Mathur et al., 2008) where a corporate’s is held accountable for their efforts towards development of projects (Valdes-Vasquez and Klotz, 2012). The safety through design characteristic on the other hand incorporates measures to counter safety hazards during the pre-construction phase while the social design factors collaboration from the team involved in designing the project towards social sustainability (Valdes-Vasquez and Klotz, 2012).




Research methods

There are two main research methodologies as discussed by Fellows and Liu (1997) and Babbie and Mouton (2005). The first methodology being qualitative research, commonly referred to as an anti- positivist approach and the second approach is the quantitative research known as a positivist approach (Welman et al., 2005).

This research adopted the mixed methods research as it utilized both qualitative and quantitative research methods. This research utilized interviews (qualitative research) and online questionnaires (positivism) to meet the objectives of the study.

Use of Interviews

This research made use of both the structured and semi-structured interviews. The Semi structured interviews provided a list of questions as a guide for the discussion – but not as strict as structured interviews. The use of semi-structured interviews allows respondents to expound on areas of discussion while also allowing the interviewer to guide them back if they have veered off topic (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008). The use of semi structured interviews was critical for this research as it enabled the investigation of the respondent’s beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of quantity surveyors with regards to sustainable building designs. The use of structured interviews was also important for this research as it provided the same line of questioning for all respondents and this eliminated any bias. Moreover, the data collected from the structured interviews is more numerical and conclusive (Strach and Everett, 2008).

Use of Questionnaires

 This research administered the questionnaires via an online survey. “In the last 25 years, technology has revolutionised the way in which surveys are administered – with the advent of the first email survey in the 1980’s and the initial web based surveys in the 1990’s” (Evans and Mathur, 2005, pg. 2). The internet is increasingly used as the tool by which researchers opt to conduct their surveys (Van Selm and Jankowski, 2006).



 Data analysis background

 This Chapter aims to answer the primary question that states, “Are quantity surveyors sufficiently knowledgeable in sustainable development to effectively engage and advise on strategies for sustainable specifications at a project planning level?” The findings were derived from research instrument, that is, an online survey and semi-structured interviews. The analysis techniques used to determine the research findings for the semi- structured in-depth interviews were content analysis and pattern matching. While statistical data analysis (i.e. means, standard deviations, minimums, maximums, frequency distribution and medians), correlation and factor analysis were applied from the online survey results.




In conclusion;

  • The construction of sustainable developments is most effective at design stage when all the project stakeholders are
  • Quantity surveyors in the current market are the least likely to effect alternative building specifications as they remain traditionally driven to cost preservation and remain inexperienced in sustainable The findings do however prove that quantity surveyors have a key role to play and that sustainability trained quantity surveyors can effectively engage and advise on strategies for sustainable specifications at a project planning level while still practicing green cost management.


The following recommendations were drawn from the findings:

  1. Quantity surveyors need to have a better understanding of green rating tools available in the market as well as do research on green trends to be better informed on sustainability issues in the industry. As professionals, they should invest in further training related to sustainability or green building developments so that they can play a proactive part in the design
  2. The research found that engagement and effective communication with other professionals in the team is vital to achieving project outcomes. Quantity surveyors need to ensure that they understand what other design consultants are putting forward in terms of sustainability changes and their impact to the building in terms of value as well as overall cost
  3. Although demand is growing towards sustainable developments. The study has shown that a small number of quantity surveyors has been involved in green Governments should promote legislation that requires the adoption of sustainable building practices so that there is significant growth in the sector, thus providing opportunities for quantity surveyors to get involved in.
  4. The quantity surveyor can show value of sustainability for long term gain to the client despite the added cost. Buy in from the clients will eventually lead to more demand of sustainable building practices and this will in turn compel quantity surveyors to get green ratings/accredited.
  5. Provisions should be made within the quantity surveyors professional fee structure to provide them the opportunity to give advice on alternative building specifications and other sustainability aspects. Quantity surveyors should be able to show value to clients and thus be rewarded within their fees
  6. The misconceptions of significant inflated costs of sustainable building materials should be addressed by carrying out appropriate life cycle assessments on alternatives. Quantity surveyors working closely with key participants on projects can develop proposals to prove the viability of alternatives in the long term which will beneficial the clients.

Areas of further research

This research is limited to the pre-contract stage of projects where it offers the greatest opportunities to contribute to design changes and specifications. However, there are other areas in which further research related to this topic can be undertaken. These include the following:

  • There is a need to consider the role quantity surveyors manage the post contract stage of projects to maintain the green building ratings a project requires. As cost professionals, they continuously provide advice to the client and team and there are opportunities for them to provide value to clients as well as the design team regarding sustainability matters during construction.
  • Consideration of how quantity surveyors encourage key stakeholders such as the client to promote sustainability on their projects.


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