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RICS launches landmark new guidance to the construction sector

Known as the Black Book, the QS and Construction Standards also include New Rules of Measurement (NRM) as tools for the construction industry to work collaboratively, efficiently and consistently.

The organisation described it as one of the most significant launches by RICS in the past 30 years. The standards were presented to an audience of over 100 industry attendees with speakers including chief Construction Advisor Paul Morrell, Mike Peasland, chief executive officer for construction services UK at Balfour Beatty and, Duncan Trench, head of delivery, development securities.

‘Endorsed by industry and welcomed by government, the Black Book and NRM suite see RICS delivering real value to its members and the construction industry in defining what good looks like,’ said Alan Muse, director of built environment professional groups at RICS.

‘The use of these standards will provide clients with greater certainty and consistency in the construction process and will reduce risk, enabling a level playing field for clients to measure expectations against when procuring services, and for practitioners to benchmark their performance against,’ he explained.

‘Clients and employers will likely reap cost and good practice efficiencies through the standardisation of construction and procurement costs and processes. If followed, these standards will form the basis of an efficient, cost effective industry,’ he added.

He pointed out that there has never been a more relevant or pressing time to introduce this kind of initiative to the construction sector as reforms proposed in the government’s Construction Strategy, the 20% efficiency agenda, the increasing focus on Building Information Modelling (BIM), and the ongoing economic challenges the industry faces, all demand a step change in working culture and the need for the industry to deliver consistent best practice. ‘The Black Book and NRM suite directly address this need,’ he said.

Paul Morrell, the government's chief construction advisor pointed out that the industry is going through a period of great change, with new contractual arrangements, new tools and technologies, new ways of working and new business models. ‘There will always, however, be a need for standards, and for the disciplines of measurement. The launch of the RICS Black Book of practice standards is a timely contribution to both needs, and coupled with the New Rules of Measurement they will help to equip the profession with the means to maintain a high quality of service and advice to its clients through this time of transformation,’ he added.

The Black Book is a comprehensive suite of documents that defines good technical standards for QS and Construction. Developed in collaboration with practitioners, contractors, clients and other professional bodies, it consists of 40 to 50 guidance notes that can assist with advising and educating those training, as well as competent quantity surveyors.

The guidance notes, some of which are completed and some of which are currently under development, cover everything from Interim valuations, conflict avoidance and dispute resolution to procurement & tendering and retention.

‘The Black Book represents the industry leading standards that QS and Construction surveyors should use in practice. Guidance on the delivery of consistent standards enables us to provide certainty and better value to our clients, and minimises risk. This is the basis of a sustainable business and a sustainable, well regarded profession,’ said Andrew Smith, chair of the Black Book Steering Group, a member of the QS & Construction Professional Board and director at Laing O’Rourke.
Complementary to the Black Book, the NRM suite provides a common measurement standard for cost comparison through the life cycle of cost management. The suite has been developed as a result of industry collaboration to ensure that at any point in a building’s life there will be a set of consistent rules for measuring and capturing cost data, thereby completing the cost management life cycle and supporting the procurement of construction projects from cradle to grave. A better understanding of costs during the construction process will increase certainty for business planning and support a reduction in spending on public and private sector construction projects in the long run.

RICS says that the relevance of the NRM within a BIM enabled industry is particularly pertinent. BIM is intended to address issues of process and data retention, bringing the collection of data to the forefront of working. The NRM is inextricably linked to this; it enables a consistent approach to Order of Cost Estimating and Cost Planning and the consistent collection of construction cost and maintenance cost data.

‘The NRM is a toolkit for cost management, forming the cornerstone of good and responsible cost management of construction projects through the provision of a consistent set of rules for measuring and capturing cost data,’ said Stuart Earl, chairman of the RICS Measurement Initiative and a director at Gleeds.

‘It provides the opportunity for clients, contractors and supply chains to sit at the heart of client’s teams, rather than deliver as service providers, enabled via the cost certainty delivered to clients in budgeting projects before they are tendered,’ he added.