Establishing criteria for descriptions of building work which include practicality and intricacy

Hussey, Henry John (2023) Establishing criteria for descriptions of building work which include practicality and intricacy. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
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In the UK construction industry, descriptions of work are the facilitators for passing of information across a wide spectrum of users. It is thought generally that the descriptions of work produced by quantity surveyors and employed in the contract documentation are sufficient to enable cost information to be transmitted to all participants. Nonetheless, to the contractor, cost is a variable with many different unknowns, but to the client cost is a constant based upon the contractors’ legally enforceable prices, subject to such controlled variations as an ‘increased cost’ clause. The purpose, however, is the same for both parties. Given that situation, it might be thought that it is essential for both parties to be provided with full and accurate information so that the estimate produced can be as near as possible to the final account figure. The producers of building work descriptions are employed by the clients (it was not always so), the information content of descriptions can omit items that are not relevant to clients’ costs without having to consider whether contractors’ costs are affected, and they are the sole arbiters of what is relevant. The consequence is that descriptions supplied to contractors do not reflect fully the intricacy of the work or the practical needs of those involved in production. This study began because it was realised that descriptions of building works do not describe the physical work of the labour and plant involved, they only describe materials. With this in mind, the study aims to develop criteria for a method of describing building work which reflects production and facilitates feedback, not only of basic costs, but also of the intricacies which cause differences in cost.

This study initially traces the development of the rules for transmitting information supplied to contractors showing how their purpose, and hence their content, has altered during the century of their existence. This was carried out by examining the existing method of measurement (from which current descriptions are derived) by comparing each edition with the next in sequence to discover what is not measured and hence not described. The second phase of the study used a multiple case study method by observing work being carried out on site to see what is and is not measured or described and then reconciling the work carried out on site with the current edition of the Standard Method of Measurement /New Rules of Measurement. Twelve workpieces (cases) across two construction sites were analysed against relevant clauses and descriptions in order to develop criteria for describing building work.

The study has found, or, rather, confirmed, that current written information-passing methods do not describe physical work, in fact they make every effort not to describe it. The changes in later editions of SMMs have diluted the content to the point where there is little or no thought given to contractors’ requirement for information. Furthermore, it is argued that the building needs to be thought of as a large number of pieces of work. Based on this, criteria have been developed that provide a method of describing work which allows for intricacies of the work to be indicated whilst also facilitating feedback of cost-causing data. The newly developed criteria point out the need for the results of work, the workpieces, to be the focus of description, at a fine level of detail rather than the somewhat impressionistic viewpoint of architects’ elements. This study challenges the current unstated theory that measurement of materials is the only way to produce accurate building prices, and proposes these criteria for describing building work, with ‘workpiece’ at the heart of each description.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: standard method of measurement, workplace identification, feedback
Subjects: K900 Others in Architecture, Building and Planning
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Architecture and Built Environment
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2023 09:58
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 10:00

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