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Description of items in the Bills of Quantities (BQ): Technique Revisits1

Shamsulhadi Bandi Department of Quantity Surveying Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design (KAED) International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Abstract: Bills of Quantities (BQ) are an output which represents the existence of Quantity Surveyors (QS) in the world of construction. It symbolizes technique and the extent of details posses by the QS and at the same time, a portrayal of meticulous effort made to the construction industry. Typical B/Qs were formed through amalgamation of various bills which represent itemize breakdown of a construction project. One of the key elements of a bill is the item description for which the sentences help estimator to understand and subsequently derive competitive price for an item. Without an accurate and reliable item description, the true meaning of an item will constantly in doubt. The aim of this study is to revisit technique available in framing descriptions (i.e. descriptions writing) in an effort to standardize and comply with requirements made by the Standard Method of Measurement (SMM). The fundamental objective is to present the technique and to provide samples for the purpose of exemplification through a well planned and extensive desk study. Accordingly, the study has found a Table-style technique for framing of descriptions which later is modified to be used as the Modified Table-style technique. The study concluded by presenting examples from Internal Floor Finishes and Internal Wall Finishes which descriptions are drawn using the Modified Table-style technique and fully comply with SMM requirements. Keywords: Bills of Quantities, Standard Method of Measurement, Descriptions, Technique

Introduction

The common recognized format of a typical bill in Bills of Quantities (BQ) in Malaysia consist of clearly defined and labeled seven (7) columns which are normally dedicated for (1) Numbering/sequencing of items (in alphabetical format), (2) Description of items, (3) Unit, (4) Quantity, (5) Rate, (6) Amount RM and (7) Amount Sen (or Cent) (Abdullah and Abdul Rashid, 2005, p. 312). The existence of the format which origin was untraced, provide a basis to explain works which are to be carried out, its unit of measurement, rate and total amount (in monetary value) for which the works will be executed by the contractor.

According to Abdul Rashid, Mustapa and Abdul Wahid (2006), a bill in B/Qs provide various use depending on Contractors, Clients and Consultant Quantity Surveyors (consultant QS)
1

In: Shamsulhadi Bandi (2011) Description of items in the bills of quantities (BQ) technique revisits. In: Research in Quantity Surveying. IIUM Press.

perspectives. Taking from Contractors perspectives, B/Qs can be used as a tool to carry out the various project management processes more effectively and efficiently while the clients benefited by having an accurate and reliable information pertaining to the progress and financial aspects of the projects. The consultant QS on the other hand, benefited by the ability to advise the client on the current projects financial situation in term of monthly expenditure, any deviation from the estimated budget and how the clients fund are being used in the project (2006, p. 6).

The preparation of B/Qs involve two distinct stages (Willis and Trench, 1998, p. 3) which are: (1) The measurement of the dimensions and the compilation of the descriptions from the drawings and specification or better known as taking-off, and (2) The preparation of the bill which involves squaring the dimensions (or calculation of volumes, areas, etc.) followed by entering the descriptions and the squared dimensions on an abstract to collect similar items together and present them in a recognized bill order.

In order to come out with a complete bill, two vital processes are identified which are: (1) the measurement process and (2) writing up the item description. In Malaysia, both processes are governed entirely by the Malaysian Standard Method of Measurement of Building Works (SMM), a document produced by The Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (ISM) which set out rules for the measurement and description of building work (Willis and Trench, 1998, p. 6). A bill is therefore representing qualitative and quantitative information essential for the contractor to execute the works and for the client and consultant QS to monitor work progress. Issue

A complete bill comes with comprehensive item description, through a process known as framing of descriptions (see Lee, Trench and Willis, 2005, p. 308) and operational quantities (which includes unit of measurement). The term quantities refers to the amounts of the different types of work fixed in position which collectively give the total requirements of the building contract (Seeley and Winfield, 1999, p. 5). In this instance quantities are the function of measurement technique through the process of taking-off in which the dimensions are scaled or read from drawings and entered in a recognized form on specially ruled paper called dimensions paper (Seeley and Winfield, 1999, p. 4). While quantities are tangible and interpretable from drawings and designers specification, item descriptions are more subjective and widely susceptible to personal experience (QS in this context), firms format, time constraint, language proficiency etc.

Abdullah and Abdul Rashid pointed out that item descriptions are part of the taking-off in which all measured works must be accompanied by its own description (2005, p. 24). Both authors further elucidate that designers specification found in the drawings must be described explicitly in the description. It must be laid out in a manner regulated and use phraseology which is approved by the Standard Method of Measurement. The problems found in many descriptions inside B/Qs are the technique used and the state of compliances with the prevailing Standard Method of Measurement 2nd Ed. (SMM2), an issue which needs clarification by which this study will attempt to report and provide insight. The fundamental objective of this study is therefore to present technique available for framing a description and to provide samples for the purpose of exemplification. Findings from this study are vital to re-empower the Quantity Surveying profession and the industry at large.

Study Purpose and Methodology

The study was conducted with an aim to revisit available technique in drafting item description in Bills of Quantities (BQ) through constructing samples from selected work items. Though no formal study has been conducted before, it was assumed that most Quantity Surveying firms in Malaysia simply use their own experience and understanding in putting in descriptions and therefore, the quality of descriptions produced and used throughout B/Qs in Malaysia remain in doubt. It is believed that standard technique is available for use and eventually the quality of descriptions available will improve. Throughout this study, the term framing of descriptions has been used extensively to represent descriptions writing as it was the main term used in mainstream literature.

With the above purpose in mind, this study will employ solely desk study as to revisit the technique and construction of samples. Due to time limitation, the study has restricted the example to be on finishing items for internal works. The selection is done base on the premise that: (1) Finishing items is an important factor for a building to be considered as complete; (2) Finishing items occupy much area in building envelop and (3) Finishing items are common in any building thus making it easily understood and comprehendible. Framing of Description

Description column in any bills within the B/Qs are the starting point for which a tenderer understand and comprehend the information before deciding a rate that is equivalent with the work that is asked. It is therefore important that a description must follow certain standard (in this case, the SMM) in which all tenderer will have the same basis for pricing

thus eliminating ambiguity in deriving competitive and comparable rates. According to Seeley and Winfield, the whole process of framing of description is driven by the fundamental objective that is to produce B/Qs which fully and accurately represent the quantity and quality of the works to be carried out (1999, p. 27). The SMM on the other hand, is a document that provides not only a uniform basis for measuring building work but also embodies the essentials of good practice (Willis and Trench, 1998, p. 6).

Accordingly, framing of description must follow standard and should be in context with rules outlined by the SMM. Through this, all parties concerned are aware of what is included and what is to be assumed and without the use of such set of rules; the quality of the B/Qs can vary widely (Willis and Trench, 1998, p. 6). In Malaysian context, this study is practically encouraged due to the problem faced in the Malaysian Construction Industry (MCI). Ibrahim, Roy, Ahmed and Imtiaz (2010, p. 300) in their study on the current status of MCI pointed out that taking-off quantities and subsequently document preparation is laden with various imbalances. The root for the imbalances (at least to the Quantity Surveyors) may have been caused for non-compliance with certain standard which eventually lead to weaknesses faced by the MCI. Framing of Description Technique re-visit

The framing of descriptions so that they are both clear and concise is an art not easily acquired, but one which is of the utmost value (Lee et. al., 2005, p. 52). Quantity Surveyors who write the description must aim at writing a clear, concise, and short but yet easily comprehendible description which gives the estimator instant views of what is actually described. Seeley for instance, noted that considerable care and skill are required to frame adequate, and yet at the same time concise descriptions, and this is probably the most difficult aspect of taking off process (1999, p. 26).

According to Abdul Rashid, the following details are normally included in framing of descriptions along with applicable section in the SMM2 (1996, p. 37):

1) 2) 3) 4)

The name of the item being measured and described. The size of the item (given in No. (for enumerated items), m (length) and area). Type, quality and size (if any) of the item being measured. Any worked imposed to the item concerned, for example once rebated (timber door frame) and twice bent with (Flashings).

5)

Method of installation or fixing in position.

In order to come out with an appropriate technique for framing of descriptions for this study, reference has been made to Abdullah and Abdul Rashid (2005) in which the presented table-style description framing is fully adopted with slight modification. In Abdullah and Abdul Rashid (2005) (see example in Abdullah and Abdul Rashid, 2005, p. 24), both authors have suggested that framing of descriptions are to be done in a three column table which require the name of item being described (first column), SMM2 Requirements (second column) and the framed description (third column) being tabulated. The main feeder of the technique therefore is the information available in the second column (SMM2 Requirements) with phraseology style largely still dependent with the writers. The final output of the technique, i.e. the description, is tabulated as prose in the third column.

Seeley and Winfield (1999, p. 26) on the other hand explained that a description should not create doubt in the mind of the estimator. Should the situation appear, then the description is lacking in some essential feature. Both authors have suggested two different approaches with regard to phraseology style in framing a description. The first approach is the traditional prose which involves framing the description in length while the second approach, structured approach aim at creating different indented level of description and closely resemble to that of SMM currently in use in the U.K. Though two approaches were identified in Seeley and Winfield (1999, p. 26), the main consideration however, still remain with the requirements of the SMM. Framed Technique Modified Table-style The technique that will be presented here is a modification to Table-style technique suggested by Abdullah and Abdul Rashid (2005, p. 24) hence it will be named Modified Table-style to accommodate the modification suggested. The sample of the Modified Tablestyle technique is presented herein:

Item

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information

Example

Example of full description:

Table 1: Sample of the Modified Table-style Base on the above sample, the Modified Table-style will have three main columns each for Item, SMM2 Requirements and a column for Example. The second column i.e. SMM2

Requirements is further divided into two columns, Clause and Particular Information. At the bottom of the Modified Table-style, a row is dedicated for the description prose. The Example of full description however, at this stage, mimics the traditional prose approach as explained by Seeley and Winfield (1999). The Example of full description which is in traditional prose later can be converted into structured approach using proper leveling and indent. For the purpose of this study, the Example of full description will be left as the traditional prose since the conversion is not within the scope of the study. Framing of descriptions using the Modified Table-style technique few examples

To promote better understanding towards the technique explained, few examples will be provided which thoroughly used the Modified Table-style technique. The examples are:

1)

Internal Floor Finishes:

1.1) 1.2) 1.3)

In-situ finishings - Cement and sand paving Bed and backings Cement and sand screed Tile, slab and block finishings 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic floor tiles

2)

Internal Wall Finishes:

1.1) 1.2) 1.3)

In-situ finishings - Cement and sand plaster Bed and backings Cement and sand screed Tile, slab and block finishings 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic wall tiles

The examples were selected base on the assumption that those are common items which appear in any projects. However, the use of the Modified Table-style technique is not limited to the examples provided and therefore may be extended to other items as well.

Internal Floor Finishes: In-situ finishings - Cement and sand paving

Item Cement and sand paving

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information S.2.1(a) Kind of material S.2.1(b) S.1.4 Composition and mix Nature of the base (for example concrete base, blockwork base or brickwork base) Nature of surface treatment (screeded, floated or trowelled) Thickness Work to floor area

Example Cement and sand (paving) Cement and sand (1:3) Concrete base

S.2.1(f)

Steel trowelled

S.2.1(d) S.6.1(a)

19mm Thick To floors level laid to falls, falls and crossfalls and to slopes not exceeding 15o from horizontal.

Example of full description: Cement and sand (1:3) laid on concrete base steel trowelled smooth 25mm Thick to floors level laid to falls, falls and crossfalls and to slopes not exceeding 15o from horizontal Internal Floor Finishes: Bed and backings Cement and sand screed

Item Cement and sand screed

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information S.2.1(a) Kind of material S.2.1(b) S.1.4 S.10.2 S.2.1(f) S.2.1(d) S.6.1(a) Composition and mix Nature of the base To receive type of tiles State nature of surface treatment Thickness Work to floor area

Example Cement and sand (backing screed) Cement and sand (1:3) Concrete base To receive ceramic tiles Screeded 25mm Thick To floors level laid to falls, falls and crossfalls and to slopes not exceeding 15o from horizontal

Example of full description: Cement and sand (1:3) laid on concrete base to receive glazed ceramic tiles 25mm Thick screeded beds to floors level laid to falls, falls and crossfalls and to slopes not exceeding 15o from horizontal

Internal Floor Finishes: Tile, slab and block finishings 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic floor tiles

Item 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic floor tiles

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information S.11.1(b) Size and thickness of tile. Slab or block units (length x width x thickness) S.11.1(a) Kind of tile units

Example 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick

S.11.1(c)

S.11.1(e)

Shape of units where other than rectangular or square Bedding or other method of fixing

Glazed ceramic tiles, homogenous tiles, mosaic tiles, etc. Approve colour and patterns Laid on cement and sand (1:3) screeded bed (measured separately) Jointed in cement and sand (1:3) and pointed in tinted cement to match On cement and sand screed To floors level laid to falls, falls and crossfalls and to slopes not exceeding 15o from horizontal

S.11.1(f)

Treatment of joints

S.1.4 S.6.1(a)

Nature of the base to receive tile Work to floor area

Example of full description: 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic tiles of approve colour and patterns; laid on cement and sand (1:3) screeded bed (measured separately) jointed in cement and sand (1:3) and pointed in tinted cement to match to floors level laid to falls, falls and crossfalls and to slopes not exceeding 15o from horizontal

Internal Wall Finishes: In-situ finishings - Cement and sand plaster

Item Cement and sand plaster

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information S.2.1(a) Kind of material S.2.1(b) S.1.4 S.2.1(f) Composition and mix Nature of the base Nature of surface treatment

Example Cement and sand (plaster) Cement and sand (1:3) Brickwork base, blockwork base Steel trowelled smooth, wood floated or wood floated and sponge finish 19mm Thick To wall, including attached columns or to isolated columns and piers

S.2.1(d) S.3.1 S.3.3

Thickness Work to walls

Example of full description: Cement and sand (1:3) mixed with approved plasticizer laid on brickwork base steel trowelled smooth 19mm Thick to wall including attached columns Internal Wall Finishes - Bed and backings Cement and sand screed

Item Cement and sand screed

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information S.2.1(a) Kind of material S.2.1(b) S.1.4 S.10.2 S.2(f) Composition and mix Nature of the base To receive type of tiles State nature of surface treatment: screeded, floated or trowelled Thickness Work to walls

Example Cement and sand (backing screed) Cement and sand (1:3) Concrete base To receive ceramic tiles To receive ceramic tiles 20mm Thick To wall, including attached columns or to isolated columns and piers

S.2.1(d) S.3.1 S.3.3

Example of full description: Cement and sand (1:3) laid on brickwork base to receive glazed ceramic tiles 20mm Thick screeded backings to walls, including attached columns

Internal Wall Finishes: Tile, slab and block finishings 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic wall tiles

Item 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic wall tiles

SMM2 Requirements Clause Particular Information S.11.1(b) Size and thickness of tile. Slab or block units (length x width x thickness) S.11.1(a) Kind of tile or block units

Example 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick

S.11.1(c)

S.11.1(e) S.11.1(f)

Shape of units where other than rectangular or square Bedding or other method of fixing Treatment of joints

Glazed ceramic tiles, homogenous tiles, mosaic tiles, etc. Approve colour and patterns Screeded bed, or proprietary adhesive Jointed in cement and sand (1:3) and pointed in tinted cement to match On cement and sand screed To walls; including attached columns, or to isolated columns and piers

S.1.4 S.3.1 S.3.3

Nature of the base to receive tile Work to wall area

Example of full description: 300 x 300 x 8mm Thick glazed ceramic tiles of approve colour and patterns; laid on cement and sand (1:3) screeded bed (measured separately) jointed in cement and sand (1:3) and pointed in tinted cement to match, to walls; including attached columns Conclusion

This paper has, in an essence, explained the technique and requirements that is vital to the formation of Bills of Quantities (BQ). Technique that is known as framing a description which provide an essential basis for estimator to identify item thus, provide competitive pricing for the work. Quantity Surveyor who framed the description for the purpose of B/Qs preparation should place considerable care not to create doubt in the mind of the estimator or else, the description may not be considered as complete. This paper has described and elaborated technique of framing of descriptions which uses a table to construct complete and accurate descriptions which follow explicitly requirements made by the SMM2. The study has presented two examples of B/Qs items which utilizes the Modified Table-style technique as well the traditional prose of description which follow suit. By revisiting this technique, the study hope to set a course of standardization on framing of descriptions and to promote the framing practice which fully compliance with the requirements of the SMM2.

References

Abdullah, A., and Abdul Rashid, K. (2005). Measurement of Building Works Based on SMM2. Kuala Lumpur: Prentice Hall. Abdul Rashid, R., Mustapa, M., and Abdul Wahid, S.N. (2006). Bills of Quantities Are they still useful and relevant today? International Conference on Construction Industry held on 21 June 25 June 2006. Padang, Indonesia.

Abdul Rashid, R. (1996). Pengenalan Ukur Kuantiti Binaan I. Skudai: DBP and UTM.

Ibrahim, A.R., Roy, M.H., Ahmed, Z. and Imtiaz, G. (2010). An Investigation to the Current Status of Malaysian Construction Industry. Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2, 294-308. Lee, S., Trench, W. and Willis, A. (2005). Williss Elements of Quantity Surveying. United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing.

Ooi, L. Y. (2008). BQ Phraseology for Architectural Works. An Essential Guide in Writing Typical Work Description for Architects, Quantity Surveyors and Builders in the preparation of Bills of Quantities (BQ). Kuala Lumpur: JUB Contract Seeley, I. H. and Winfield, R. (1999). Building Quantities Explained (5th Ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Seeley, I. H. (1997). Quantity Surveying Practice (2nd Ed.). London: Macmillan.

The Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (ISM). (2000). The Malaysian Standard Method of Measurement of Building Works (2nd Edition). Petaling Jaya: The Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (ISM). Willis, A. and Trench, W. (1998). Williss Elements of Quantity Surveying. United Kingdom: Blackwell Science.