On-Site Magazine

Panel looks for increased transparency in Canadian construction through new standards

By Amie Silverwood   

Construction Financing Infrastructure Risk Management

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Canadian Institute Of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) and The Canadian Association of Consulting Quantity Surveyors (CACQS) held a joint information session earlier this month about the International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS), which included a diverse panel of industry experts who have a vested interest in the implementation and success of the ICMS standard.

The ICMS are high-level standards for benchmarking and reporting on construction projects. They are a response to governments and lenders who are keen to see consistency, classification, benchmarking and reporting.

“The construction industry is geographically diverse,” said Arif Ghaffur, president of Lakeland Consulting, speaking of what he described as the seismic changes the construction industry is undergoing. “The industry is becoming more global and there’s no denying it.”

Currently, project reports follow local customs and reporting practices so that even within Canada, it is difficult to compare costs from projects in Vancouver and Toronto. Even from one contract to the next, contractors and sub-contractors may disagree about cost categorization. The ICMS was built as a template for reporting on construction costs that will make it easy to compare projects on similar terms.


Though the standards themselves show a huge shift in thinking, Susan Neil, a quantity surveyor and executive vice-president at Hanscomb, stressed that the actual change in the work required to follow the standard is not cumbersome. “If you’re worrying about the big change that’s coming, it’s not big. It’s not changing our day-to-day operations,” she said. “It’s about sharing information in a more productive way.”

But the construction industry isn’t keen on sharing information, rather, it’s an industry where lack of transparency is held sacred, the panel said. It is in a willingness to be transparent where the major shift is required. Industry professionals must see the benefit of sharing the data they accumulate.

Perhaps it’s a fear of scandals or cost overruns that will help drive the implementation of the standards. Moving forward with the standard requires a top-down approach with the project owners that require the ICMS standards be followed. And they’re the ones who will benefit most from being able to compare project costs and demonstrate responsible project costing.

Yet even consultants can play a role in moving the standard forward by reporting on it even if they’re not required to follow the standards. They can use the standards as a way of educating their clients in its usefulness, said Alan Hand, senior partner at A.W. Hooker Associates. “We need to be enthusiastic proponents in ICMS components even if clients aren’t asking for it,” he said. “We’re doing it and we’re excited about that.”

This article was contributed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

RICS is an international body dedicated to the creation and enforcement of standards in the construction and land development industries.


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