The day job: A quantity surveyor in Hong Kong

Insights gained in more than 25 years of consultancy have emphasised for one QS the value of becoming chartered, and prompted him to share his experience with the next generation of professionals


  • Dr Stanley Chow FRICS

18 March 2022

Aerial view of Hong Kong Downtown. Financial district and business centers in smart city in Asia. Top view of skyscraper and high-rise buildings.

Construction Journal: Tell us a little about how you became a quantity surveyor (QS).

Stanley Chow: I received my diploma in building studies in 1994. After that I joined a QS consultancy. At the same time, I took a part-time evening higher diploma in building, graduating in 1997.

During this time, I knew that becoming chartered would be a significant benefit to my QS career. So, after I completed my higher diploma, I went to the UK to study further. I received a BSc (Hons) in quantity surveying with the higher diploma counting towards it, and an MSc in construction management and economics the following year. I spent a total of eight years working on my fundamental skills and taking CPD while in a consultant role in Hong Kong and achieved my MRICS. After five years of membership, I achieved FRICS when I was 34 years old.

Although there is no legal requirement in Hong Kong and China to be chartered if you are going to practise as a surveyor, RICS guidance and training is designed to maintain the highest professional standards for members. Therefore, local clients in these markets rightly feel that RICS members can add value to projects, and many seek to employ a QS who is chartered.

CJ: Can you tell us about some interesting projects you have been involved in

SC: As a contractor QS, I worked on a hospital extension project. This gave me an insight into the special requirements for such buildings, including the thickness of reinforced concrete, with heavy steel plates in the slabs and walls to contain x-ray radiation.

The experience helped me understand the importance of special requirements for different types of project. As a developer QS, I worked on a variety of projects including residential, commercial, retail and hotels.

I also found that there is a common misunderstanding about the difference between working as a QS for a consultancy and for a developer. In general, the former focus on the raw numbers, but the latter are primarily concerned with cost. Given my experience, I advise QSs working in consultancy that they should focus on the holistic cost rather than just a set of numbers.

In addition, I have found that whether I am working for a contractor, consultant, or developer, RICS standards and guidance are a fruitful source of information for QS practitioners.

CJ: Before you became a university lecturer, were you involved in mentoring?

SC: I have worked with RICS for more than 15 years, starting as a mentor when I achieved MRICS. In 2015, I was invited by the RICS Learning Hub to provide training sessions for potential APC applicants. I have also worked as a counsellor, and was an assessor for RICS APC final interview panels for many years.

Most candidates struggle to prepare correctly for the final interview. In training them, I shared my point of view as an assessor and offered them guidance. It was very meaningful to me, and I enjoyed it a lot.

I applied to become an RICS licensed assessor trainer (LAT) in 2018. After being trained and assessed in the UK, I became an RICS LAT for Hong Kong. There are just three such trainers in the city, and I am proud to say I am the only LAT representing both QS and project management (PM) pathways in Hong Kong.

I love to share my knowledge and experience with the next generation. I know they need more support and encouragement.

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CJ: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with APC candidates?

SC: Becoming a chartered surveyor is the most important professional achievement in our lives; it is a globally recognised qualification. It might be difficult to achieve, but do not give up! Finding a suitable mentor or counsellor is critical for candidates. RICS members always welcome candidates who seek help.

'Becoming a chartered surveyor is the most important professional achievement in our lives'

CJ: Do you have any advice for members who might consider becoming an APC assessor?

SC: Being an assessor is a prestigious role, which maintains the high standard of RICS membership. Both candidates and assessors need to understand the APC requirements thoroughly and prepare well, because assessment represents a significant time commitment.

Assessors are gatekeepers for the profession and have a duty to advocate for surveying. A good assessor must be passionate in promoting the use of professional standards.

I encourage assessors to make the following five commitments.

  • Always provide a high standard of service. As a proud assessor myself, I do not just encourage assessors to share assessment experience but also continue to keep abreast of construction industry developments.

  • Take responsibility. Assessors should commit to promoting the surveying profession and supporting every APC candidate on their qualification journey.

  • Assessors must abide to by the letter and spirit of guidance on diversity and inclusion.

  • Treat others with respect. Assessors must think and act without bias and discrimination.

  • Committing time is the most important attribute for assessors.

CJ: What changes would you like to see in the construction industry in Hong Kong and China?

SC: The global shift towards sustainable construction is as high on the agenda here as it is everywhere else. Modular integrated construction (similar to modern methods of construction in UK) is one innovative method now commonly used in Hong Kong, for instance. New technologies and sustainable or recyclable materials are also a high priority in China and Hong Kong at present.

CJ: What general engagement do you have with the construction sector outside China?

SC: A large number of Chinese developers are investing in property markets outside the country. I believe this trend will last for a few years. Hence, a globally recognised qualification – MRICS – is crucial for any QS who may want to contribute to projects around the world.

CJ: What do you think will be the new or most important innovations in construction in the next five years?

SC: As I mentioned above, sustainable and recyclable materials are very important. In coming years, innovative technologies such as BIM, MMC etc. will come into common usage.

The goals of protecting the environment and saving energy will become focal points for construction. Balancing time, cost and quality with sustainability will become more and more important in the industry.

Stanley Chow FRICS is a lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, UK

Contact Stanley: Email

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