Raising the profile of quantity surveying in the Middle East and Gulf regions

Author: Nabih E. Azzam

31 January 2020

Despite the evolution of quantity surveying in the UK and other Commonwealth countries where the profession is often studied at both bachelors and masters degree level there are few education programmes for the discipline in the Middle East and Gulf countries.

Conversely the added value of quantity surveyors is widely recognised in these regions which has resulted in the services of quantity surveyors from other countries where the profession is better established being commissioned on various projects and programmes.

In 1982 however neither the education nor the recognition of the professions added value were evident. The absence of an established quantity surveying profession meant other disciplines such as engineering took on the work. These disciplines were however bound by the limitations of the scope of services they could provide particularly in terms of cost estimating planning and control evaluation of variations and final accounts the services that essentially comprise a quantity surveyors role.

There seemed to be an opportunity to raise awareness of the profession and embed it in construction activity in the Middle East and Gulf regions. To that end I founded Nabih Elisa Azzam & Partners (NEA & Partners) in Jordan the first Arab chartered quantity surveying practice offering specialist quantity surveying and cost management services to Jordan and the surrounding Middle East and Gulf regions.

I want to raise awareness and embed our profession in construction activity across the Middle East and Gulf regions

Launching the business was the culmination of my education in quantity surveying professional training including my RICS qualification and work experience across both the UK and Gulf countries.

Establishing the company brought many challenges. A prominent engineering firm in Jordan once asked why they should use the services of a company such as mine when they had a team of engineers able to carry out the tasks of quantity surveyors including preparing bills of quantities. The firms statement was correct: its engineers could carry out some of those tasks but not to the standard of trained quantity surveyors resulting in an elevated number of disputes and discrepancies. This only strengthened my resolve to promote the benefits that the quantity surveying profession can bring to construction.

The encounter with the engineering firm and other similar experiences indicated that for public perception and awareness to shift further investment in education programmes promoting surveying was required starting in schools and providing clear progression to further education.

To contribute to this quantity surveying education NEA & Partners began offering opportunities to young engineers training them in our Jordan office and converting their skills to quantity surveying. We then collaborated with government authorities such as the Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Jordan and the Jordan Engineering Association to introduce a professional diploma in quantity surveying in partnership with the German Jordanian University. In September 2018 15 students graduated from the course while a second batch began their studies in October 2019. Our vision is to create an academy within NEA & Partners and expand the range of courses available.

We are also hoping to visit schools in Jordan to introduce students to the benefits and importance of the profession with the hope of encouraging them to consider quantity surveying as an option to study at university. Ultimately we aim to be able to extend these initiatives beyond Jordan and into other Middle East and Gulf countries. UK universities in particular are instrumental to the success of these initiatives and we are looking to collaborate with them to establish new education programmes combining our knowledge and experience in the Arab world with their expertise in quantity surveying education.

The opportunities to expand and promote the benefits of our profession are vast. As RICS professionals we have the expertise and experience to identify them address them and ensure quantity surveying is valued and utilised around the world.

Nabih E. Azzam FRICS is founder and owner of NEA & Partners. He won the first movers category award in the RICS Pride in the Profession

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