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AN INTRODUCTION TO TAKING OFF QUANTITIES

Roslinda Binti Ismail

Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Faculty of Engineering Technology,

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, Batu Pahat, Johor

E-mail: Roslinda.ism@gmail.com

This report is presents an approach to taking off quantities. The purpose of measuring any mechanical works is
to establish the correct amount of work to be done. This involves producing accurate quantities in a way which
is comprehensive, technically accurate and clear in its approach and presentation.

1.0 Introduction

The quantification process involves recording dimensions and is referred to as taking off
because it involves reading or scaling (taking off) dimensions from a drawing and entering this
information in a standard manner on purpose ruled paper called dimension paper or take off paper.

2.0 The Taking Off Process

The Taking Off list is a process of analysing technical drawings and specifications to identify
elements. Lists should include every mechanical element from the smallest to the largest component.
The development of computerised measurement and billing systems have made the traditional method
less common nowadays; however, it is still used in practice

If the drawings are unclear, then a quantity surveyor will enter any queries on a query sheet for the
architect. A typical query sheet has the quantity surveyors questions on one side and the architects
answers on the other.

2.1 Costs

The Taking Off process can be very useful in estimating the costs of a project because the
contractor bases the pricing of the work on the Bill of Quantities. The bill is created by the
clients quantity surveyor, who is traditionally referred to as a Professional Quantity Surveyor
or Private Practice Quantity surveyor, and completed by the contractors quantity surveyor.
Part of the bill is the taking off process which needs to be accurate, so the correct pricing can
take place. The Bill of Quantities is used to assist the contractor when preparing an estimate
for the tender. The priced bill then becomes part of the contract documents, providing the
basis for the valuation of the work.

The Taking Off list is a very important part of the Bill of Quantities because it allows the
quantity surveyor to use the bill for the valuation of the work completed, which allows them
to work out the stage payments needed in a given contract. The contractors quantity surveyor
can also work out the price for each stage payment of a project for each individual sub-
contractor.

2.2 Clients perspective

The clients main concern is to see the project completed on time, on budget, and to the
required quality. However, the client also wants better information on the project and this can

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be provided by the taking off process. The financial information in the Bills of Quantity can
be translated into other information such as cash flows, periodic project accounts, and cost
variations. The information can then be easily communicated to the client to keep him
informed of the progress and financial status of the project.

2.3 Consultants perspective

The consultant represents the client he has to ensure the client gets value for money. The
consultant concentrates on making sure the client receive a high quality product, a building
which is completed on time, and more importantly, within the estimated budget. The priced
bill by the contractor provides useful information to a consultant because it identifies the total
cost of the project and also the market conditions. Qualitative and quantitative (including
financial) information presented in the taking off process and thus the Bill of Quantities
provides the consultancy with useful tender evaluation and selection of contractor for a given
project. The priced bill can be translated into a work programme, cost plan and project cash
flow and budget. This can help to make more effective project supervision and cost
controlling. The bill also provides effectively a shopping list of items required.

2.4 Contractors perspective

When tendering for a construction project the contractor is given the Bill of Quantities by the
client. This includes the Taking Off list, which is associated with estimating as it takes place
prior to the construction process. The estimating department of the contractor then calculates
as accurately as possible the costs of the given project. The estimator uses current pricing
information for different aspects of the proposed works.

The Taking Off list is of most importance to the contractor when estimating costs, because it
can be used to calculate the costs for preparation of the tender. The bill is based on the Taking
Off list. Each company uses its own tables of standard work outputs for different types of
construction operation work, which they enter into the un-priced bill. When this is completed
the bill can be said to have been priced, and can be sent back to the client. The Taking Off list
in the Bill of Quantities can be used by the contractor when preparing pricing for new
projects as an estimate of the construction costs. This should be reviewed often when
construction starts.

The Taking Off list is essential in working out the target costs. The estimated costs are
adopted as a basis of the construction operations costs onsite. The target or budget costs try to
relate to the actual tasks happening on site. In the bill the estimator uses an average output for
the whole of a given item. These costs are then analysed separately, depending on the type or
work and the difficultly. The target costs use the average estimators rate as basis but will
vary this in relation to the actual achievement expected. Target costs are often slightly lower
than the estimated cost because of a contractors incentive scheme and the unforeseen risk
which is involved.

The final type of cost is the actual cost; previously the basis of working out the estimated
costs and target cost was the Taking Off list and the bill in the Bill of Quantities. The actual
cost use recorded data on site. Actual labour outputs from the site are compared with the
budget outputs. When comparing the estimated costs and actual costs, this may show a huge
difference; however, comparing the actual and target costs should show only a small amount
of difference.

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2.5 Subcontractors

The main contractor can use the Taking Off process to assist with the separation of the Bill of
Quantities into trade sections for different sub-contractors. The separated estimated priced
sections will be sent off to several subcontractors for their own pricing, and then sent back to
the main contractor for comparison. Not just the lowest price wins the work; the main
contractor will take into account items such as previous experience, reputation, flexibility,
time, quality of work etc.

2.6 Materials

When obtaining quotations for materials to be used on site, the Taking Off process can be
used. The bills are sent to suppliers and they send back a price for the materials. Common
materials that the contractor may require can be purchased through a regular local supplier.
The pricing of the material can be affected by a number of factors such as order size, delivery
costs and exchange rates. The Bill of Quantities is split into ordered sections according to
Standard Method of Measurement (SMM). This allows the material ordering to be easily
identified and carried out.

Information sent to the supplier will include:

i. Specification of the material (which is usually found in the preamble of the Bill of
Quantities).
ii. Quantity of the material required (which is usually found in the bill section of the
Bill of Quantities.)
iii. The address of the site.
iv. The delivery dates required by the contractor. This is very important to allow
storage space on site, storage costs, extra space for deliveries and a foreman to be
present when unloading the materials, if required.

2.7 Plant

The Taking Off Process can be very useful in a proposed development project when obtaining
quotations for hire, lease, or purchase of plant and equipment. The choice between renting
and purchasing plant is normally calculated financially to see if it is viable. This is based
upon the expected use of the given plant. The Taking Off process has to be correct, and the
correct information has to be sent.

2.8 Labour

The Taking Off process can also help with forecasting the labour costs. These costs are
usually calculated using an all-in labour rate, includes the basic rate and guaranteed bonus
plus items such as weather, sick pay, trade supervisions, and extra payments (for example
skill or responsibility for risk).

The most common method of estimating the costs of the construction work is unit rates; this
can be used to measure the Bill of Quantities by the contractor. Such items as labour,
materials, subcontractors, and plant can all be measured this way.

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3.0 Breakdown of Main Parties

Below is a breakdown of what the client (represented by a consultancy) and a contractor offer
in the tendering process.

Provided by the consultants:

i. The work to be performed


ii. The quality and standards or work required
iii. The contractual conditions to be applied

Provided by the contractor:

i. The cost of the finished works


ii. The construction programme

4.0 Operational Work and Project Management

Not only is the Taking Off process a valuable source of information in the tendering process
but it can also be used throughout the operational work of a construction project. The
accuracy and the way the Taking Off list is drawn up is very important in the management of
the project. If the site team understand exactly what the Taking Off process says it can lead to
more effective management of the project and the given trades. The list of work items and
their quantities in the bill, gives the contractor a detailed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
of the project. This is extremely useful information because it helps in project planning and
preparation of the work plan and programme. It can be used to organise activities in a logical
sequence for different sub-contractors and can be used to estimate the activity duration. The
estimated costs in the bill are also useful to monitor and control the project finances.

Project Cost Management, which is a balancing of demands, is an essential part of project


management. Garrison (1998) believed that information is vital to the success of financial
management. In the absence of adequate, accurate, and reliable cost information, a project
cost-management exercise would be ineffective. This shows that the Taking Off process is
very important. The Taking Off process can also help with the project development; however
this all depends on the types and emphasis of the project, eg if the cost is the biggest
emphasis of the project and the fund is limited it is appropriate to use the bill because it
contains high levels of detail of project cost items. This can then be used for detailed project
accounting and financial reporting.

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The above diagram shows how the Taking Off process can be used to help with project
related costs. An estimator estimates the cost of the work to be performed which is based on
the bill in the Bill of Quantities. If the contractor is successful in winning the tender then the
work can be put into practice. The project costs can be monitored by the site management
team which can then be compared to the Taking Off process. Finally the comparison of the
cost can be sent back as feedback, which can give information on the work and the time
expended on all the operations. This can be recorded and used throughout the project

5.0 Law

The Taking Off process is part of the contract documents in a construction project. Thus when
signing the contract document you are willing to accept that it is correct and you will be held
(liable) to everything in it. There are many standard form contracts which can be followed
such as the JCT (Joint Contracts Tribunal) 2005 which has a section for the Bill of Quantities
and has its legal obligations all set out.