Having recently completed a Master of Construction Law, Prendos Registered Quantity Surveyor Asela Premaratne has gained an even greater understanding of the legal obligations in construction contracts and statutory provisions. We spoke to him about the value a quantity surveyor can add to a project from both a cost and legal perspective.
As our lead quantity surveyor (QS) for the Auckland region, Asela has built his commercial project experience on the back of large remediation, new build and seismic strengthening projects across various sectors including education, care home, retail and office.
“In my role I work with our building surveyors on defective construction claims, life cycle costing analysis and long-term maintenance plans, and with our architects and engineers on feasibility studies and business case analyses. I also enjoy working with the lead QSs from other regions, sharing our experiences, analysing different market trends across the country and discussing the challenges on a variety of projects we’ve been appointed on. Every day is different.”
Asela says the knowledge gained from his master’s qualification can be applied to his role on a daily basis.
“My degree has given me a greater appreciation of the role that professionals, contractors and the design team play in the construction process, what obligations each party has and what liabilities they can be exposed to. It’s also given me a better understanding of statutory adjudication and other dispute resolution procedures, as well as contractual issues in construction contract administration such as extension of time and contract claims.”
As lead QS, Asela is typically involved with clients from the outset of a project – something Prendos recommends, irrespective of the project’s size or value.
“All clients are, naturally, cost sensitive, and having a knowledgeable cost consultant on their team from the start can make a huge difference. We’re able to add the most value at the beginning of a project – providing cost advice and setting things up to run smoothly from inception to completion. Because we understand the process, we can help establish robust budgets, monitor costs and identify issues early on to stop them getting out of control, rather than being the ambulance at the end of the cliff.”
One of Asela’s biggest frustrations is that some clients still choose not to involve a professionally qualified, quantity surveyor (PQS) at the start of their project.
“Unfortunately, clients can get carried away with the design and lose sight of the cost of carrying out the works. When they eventually come to us, they’ve usually had a real shock at the level of funds required to get their project over the line. They’ve learnt the hard way that a small investment in professional advice from the early stages of a project can pay dividends in the long run.”
Asela says that as QSs, they are often engaged in providing expert witness services and assistance in resolving construction contract disputes through mediation, arbitration, adjudication and court processes.
“In these situations, it’s important we stick to our area of expertise – in the same way building surveyors and architects stick to their own specialties. If we don’t, it can put the evidence at risk of being dismissed by a judge – which wouldn’t help our clients or our reputation. We’re also very aware of our obligation to provide independent advice. We’re not an advocate for the client; we’re there to provide impartial, unbiased evidence that allows the decision maker to reach a just outcome.”
Prendos’ team of building surveyors and quantity surveyors work closely together for many New Zealand law firms and their clients. Asela says key to success is getting the right team on the job.
“Our directors usually assist at the outset, making sure we’re the right experts to assist, gathering case history information and getting up to speed on the statement of claim. We then decide who’s best placed to work on it. Prendos has experts in passive fire, weathertightness and insurance claims – flood, fire and earthquake. My QS colleagues and I also bring different areas of expertise to the table, from an in-depth knowledge of timber framed buildings, to bank finance reporting and construction contract claims. Once we’ve got the right team in place, we’ll gather sufficient evidence, prepare clear reports on our findings and issue these to our client’s legal advisors – usually as privileged information.”
After a busy few years juggling a young family, a full-time job and a Masters’ degree, Asela says he’s now settling into his role as lead QS for the Auckland region. “I’m able to apply the knowledge from my master’s degree, as well as the experience I’ve gained over the years, to help grow the team and continue building our client base. With the team’s support, I’m enjoying making a real contribution to Prendos and our clients. It’s satisfying when you’ve acted as an expert and a dispute is resolved. Even when the client doesn’t get everything they expected, if the correct legal process is followed, we know we’ve assisted in reaching a fair outcome.”
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