How Old Is Quantity Surveying? | A Brief History Of The Quantity Surveyor

Let’s be honest, this is not a thought that goes through many people’s minds. We’re pretty sure nobody is kept up late at night thinking “I just need to know how the role of the Quantity Surveyor was created”. But here at Metroun, we’re all about Quantity Surveying. We’ve already told you about where we feel the profession will go in the future, so it only feels right to tell you how it all began.

The United States of America was founded in 1776, electricity was invented in 1879, and the airplane in 1906. Without skipping ahead, Which event in time is closest to the creation of the role of the Quantity Surveyor?

If you said it’s closer to the creation of Electricity in 1879, unfortunately, you are wrong. The correct answer is that it’s closer to the formation of The United States of America.

The earliest mention of surveying as a profession was in Ireland in 1750. Yes, that’s right, Quantity Surveying is older than the USA. An Irish clergyman and architectural writer, John Payne, vicar of Castlerickard in County Meath, put his name to a “True Bill of Materials required for the Improvement at the Barrack of Horse at Trim” as “a full bill made by me John Payne, Clerk and Surveyor of Quantities”

The earliest quantity surveying firm of which records are available is a Reading firm in the United Kingdom which was operating in 1785.

In 1802, a number of Scottish quantity surveyors met and produced the first method of measurement.

And on the 15th June 1868 in Westminster Palace Hotel, London, 49 surveyors met and created The Institution of Surveyors. It wasn’t until 1881 when the institution gained its royal charter. We now all know this institution very well. With this royal decree, the name changed to The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or RICS for short.

Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, it was common practice to measure and value the building work after it had been completed and bills of quantities were not prepared.

The need for quantity surveyors became evident as building work increased in volume and clients become dissatisfied with the method adopted for settling the cost of the work. In the late 19th century, there emerged a system for using the main contractor for executing the works. This involved several bidders submitting bids to the employer for evaluation in order to select a suitable contractor for the execution of the works.

We see the biggest shift in the 20th century.

1922 was the year The Standard Method of Measurement was first published

We see our first computerized assistance in 1957 as Dr. Patrick J. Hanratty developed PRONTO, the first commercial numerical-control programming system.

In 1960, Ivan Sutherland MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory created SKETCHPAD, which demonstrated the basic principles and feasibility of computer technical drawing.

And in 1982 the first CAD system was developed to assist engineers and QS’s alike.

Fast forward to the modern-day and we see a movement towards non-traditional procurement methods and greener buildings. As always, the role of the quantity surveyor is ever-evolving and will not remain stagnant. But do not worry, we will be here every week to help guide you through the changes.

Why not watch our video on The History Of Quantity Surveying?

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