By Nyambura Kanyegenya

Quantity Surveying is what affords me the internet bundles to run this blog. It’s what I spent 4 years in a campus in the heart of Nairobi’s CBD studying. It is what my father never quite figured for those four years despite paying the fees. He is not alone, a lot of people don’t. For the record, it is NOT the same as Land Surveying.


The Built Environment Courses Offered in Kenyan Universities

So, what exactly does a Quantity Surveyor (QS) do?

In layman’s terms, quantity surveying is about estimating the cost of buildings. Basically, a QS forecasts how much a building will cost based on the architect’s and structural engineer’s designs.

Normally what happens in a construction project is the architect prepares drawings in conjunction with the structural engineer, mechanical and electrical engineers. These drawings are forwarded to the quantity surveyor who then prepares a cost breakdown of the project. To do this, the QS has to break down the building into elements that can be quantified and later priced. This process is called taking off.

Once the estimates are ready, they are presented to the client who is able to determine whether their budget can cover the forecast cost. If the estimate is higher than the budget, the client may have to downsize. It is strongly recommended that this process of downsizing should be done under the guidance of the consultants in the design team. For this reason, architects have been killed dreamers – while the quantity surveyors are the dream-killers… I digress.

If the client is comfortable with the budget, tenderers – in this case contractors – are invited to bid for the job based on three main things: the bills of quantities prepared by the project QS, the architect’s and engineer’s drawings. After the tender documents are returned, the project QS will then analyse them and prepare a tender evaluation report advising the client on the most suitable tenderer. This then paves way for signing of the contract between the successful contractor and the client and, eventually, the onset of actual construction.

During the course of the project, the QS is normally responsible for carrying out the valuation of work done. These valuations form the basis of payments to be made to the contractor periodically against the actual work done. At the end of the project, the QS will prepare a final account which is a summary of all the work done and how much it actually cost. This is compared with the estimate to determine whether any savings or losses were made.

Other roles of the QS include contract administration, giving financial advice to the client and advising the client on construction costs. There are also other emerging roles of the QS in the construction industry. So, in a nutshell, that’s what I do.

Would you like to be a Quantity Surveyor? Here’s how:

Step one

Attain brilliant grades in high school in these subjects: Mathematics; Physics; History and Government/ Geography/CRE/IRE/HRE; Home Science/ Computer Studies/ Aviation Technology/ Agriculture/ Art & Design.

Step two

Gain admission to either The University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology (JKUAT) or Technical University of Kenya.

Step Three

Graduate from any of the above institutions then you proceed to work as a Graduate Quantity Surveyor or Assistant Quantity Surveyor under a Registered Quantity Surveyor for at least 24 months.This part of the mandatory training that you have to undergo if you want to be registered as a QS. This is the part where you realize that you weren’t taught everything in the classroom!

This is where I am in my professional journey.


Professional Registration Bodies in Kenya’s Construction Industry

Step Four

Sit for exams administered by the Board of Registration for Architects & Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS).



After you successfully apply for your registration certificate and practising licence from BORAQS, you will become a fully registered quantity surveyor. 

Step Five

Work. Get projects. Attend the continuing professional development (CPD) courses and events organized by BORAQS, Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) and the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya (IQSK). That’s if you want to be relevant in the field.


Nyambura is a graduate QS at a Nairobi-based construction cost consultancy firm. This article was originally published on Nyambura’s blog.