Cost Control of Building Projects by the Kenya Architect and the Quantity Surveyor

The architect in Kenya and the rest of his design team require to liaise continuously with their clients regarding issues of cost of the building projects they are doing, whether within Kenya or the East African region. Adroit Architecture understands the importance of synergizing with likeminded consultants interested in offering a client value for money. This requires knowledge of cost estimating through setting a budget and sticking to it as the project is implemented. The process of setting a budget and maintaining it is key to the success of carrying out any architectural project.

The budget enables a developer to engage with the financiers for a project, be it a government body seeking funding from Treasury, or private developers discussing with a bank. Since financing is the engine with which projects are realized, one must provide accurate information to ensure that proper cost ceilings are set at the conceptualization stages of a design.

Kenya Architect Project in Nairobi

Kenyan Architect's Project in Nairobi

Initial cost estimation through areas by the Kenya Architect

This is carried out using a unit rate per square metre derived from a similar recently constructed building within the same region. The Architect is responsible for ascertaining the areas for the project based on their analysis of the client’s program or brief. Once the areas of the project from the accommodation schedule are derived at the inception stage, these areas are subjected to this unit rate in order to come up with a preliminary cost estimate. Design may not have been carried out, but this estimation broadly informs the developer and consultants at what level the project is likely to cost. A preliminary cost ceiling can then be set in place.

Preliminary estimate based on elemental breakdown.

Once the architect has prepared preliminary designs for the project, the quantity surveyor can take early measurements of the entire scheme. These broad measurements and preliminary descriptions enable the quantity surveyor to prepare firmer cost estimates that are based on actual quantities of elements in the project. These elements include walls, reinforced floors and ceilings, doors and windows, roofing, foundations and other substructure elements as well as mechanical and electrical services.

The cost budget can be firmed up at this point as the client can be more informed of the exact scope of the building project.

Preparation of Bills of Quantities

Once the architect and engineers have now detailed their designs and prepared detailed specifications for the building, the quantity surveyor embarks on creation of the bills of quantities. This document comprises of

  1. preliminaries,
  2. specifications and
  3. measured bills.


These provide information relating to procurement and contract information that the contractor who is to bid for the project requires to know. These include conditions of contract, insurance and performance bond information, information regarding tendering processes, and the actual form of tender which shall bear the amount that a contractor shall bid for the project.

The specifications

These contain general descriptions of all the work and materials that shall be used in the building during construction. It also details processes and tasks that the building contractor should fulfill in the process of carrying out the work. These include structural testing, health and safety requirements, among others.

The measured bills

These contain detailed description of each building element together with its measured quantity and its unit of measurement. Each building part is broken down to its constituent elements and these are quantified according to a unit rate of measurement that is standard for a kind of element. E.g. Walls are measured according to square metres (SM), while reinforced concrete work is measured in cubic meters (CM).

The bills are usually in a tabular format, with columns for the description, quantity, unit of measurement, unit rate and amount. The columns for unit rates and amount are left blank to be filled by a contractor pricing the document.

Preparing the final cost estimate (QS priced bills of quantities)

The Quantity Surveyor prepares this final cost estimate by pricing the Bills of Quantities as a consultant, based on their knowledge of market rates. He accomplishes this by inserting unit rates and amounts for each item after consultation with suppliers and including fair margins for contractor’s profit. This pricing is then totaled up and consolidated into a final sum which becomes the final cost estimate.

In essence the Quantity Surveyor prices this document as though he or she were a contractor.

This estimate is treated as highly confidential due to the need to avoid its content being known by bidding contractors, which would negate the advantages of tendering.

Client Approvals in liaison with the Kenya Architect

Once the drawings have been concluded and tender documentation has been completed, it is vital for the client to approve these documents prior to going out to tender.

Once these documents have been tendered for and quotes have been received, it is the client’s prerogative to award the contract to the most responsive (not necessarily lowest) bidder. As these figures become part of the contract that the client will enter into with a contractor, it is vital for them to appraise these documents thoroughly.

Quality Assurance and Financial Appraisals During Construction.

The process of construction is the point at which the money that has been so painstakingly planned for during design and estimation is finally spent. The architect in Kenya together with the Quantity Surveyor and the Engineers engage in a rigorous process of quality control as they supervise the work of the building contractor.

The Kenya Architect requires the contractors to strictly comply with the drawings and specifications that have been designed and prepared as the building standard. The Quantity Surveyor likewise enforces the specifications and building rates as prepared in the bills of quantities and priced for by the building contractor at tender stage.

The building contractor and the quantity surveyor regularly measure the actual quantum of work that is done on the ground and this is compared with the quantities that are captured in the bills of quantities. Once the project is complete, these quantities are reconciled in order to give an accurate picture of the value of the actual construction, vis a vis what was in the design.

The Architect in Kenya may require the quantity surveyor to also provide regular financial appraisals of the project during construction to ensure that it is not going beyond the preset budgets.

The Kenyan Architect, the quantity surveyor and engineers form the design team that is integral to the success of any building project.