The 'Down Under' Difference as a UK Cost Consultant

Generally speaking, there are many similarities between the working cultures of Australia and the UK. Despite the miles, the transition is relatively easy to make in a professional sense and the expat contingent over there is expansive as a result, especially in the construction industry.

But there are many differences too. They might be subtle but they are worth noting for anyone heading out that way or thinking about doing so.

Here are a few observations on the technical nuances between life as a QS in Australia versus the UK:

Firstly, a cost consultant in Australia is less likely to be engaged at the earliest RIBA stage 0/1 equivalent. They are usually brought in at a later date which could mean more trouble-shooting. The fact that both the Architect and PM are usually employed before the QS can change the dynamic of the project team and bring frustration when it comes to challenging budgets.

Cost Planning is the same in principle although more measuring software tends to be used in Australia versus excel to actually drive cost plan production.

The role of the PM and how this integrates with the role of a QS is something that might take some getting used to. Essentially, the PMs take on more responsibility than they do in the UK including tasks that the cost consultant would typically assume such as putting together tender and contract documents.

An Australian QS does not get as involved with procurement as is conventional in the UK. Instead, the client or the PM will issue and collate tender documents, contract admin, etc.

The valuations or ‘progress claims’, as they are called in Australia, can be a little more long-winded as the PMs also get involved with those at the latter stages.

The PMs have the final say on variations with contractors and whether there is a variation in the first place, before referring it back for commercial assessment by the QS.

On a very positive note, some of the above differences mean that there is a distinct opportunity as a UK cost consultant to add real value to a project when working in Australia. Educating clients by implementing a more holistic way of thinking, as practised by cost consultants in the UK, means you can impress a client easily and quickly. The opportunity to focus on value rather than just cost transitions you from a Quantity Surveyor to a genuine Cost Consultant in the eyes of your client and the satisfaction gleaned here makes the role all the more rewarding.

In light of this, some of the more progressive cost consulting firms in Australia will enable you the opportunity to get involved in the wider picture at a much earlier stage of your career than might be the case in the UK, where cost consulting is more established as a principle over and above traditional ‘quantity surveying’. Given this opportunity, you can demonstrate a value add approach for your client whilst enhancing profitability for the business from Senior Surveyor level and above, whereas such responsibilities are more often reserved for Partners and Directors back in the UK. This can really propel your career forward when it comes to developing more sophisticated skills as a cost consultant. It can also bring diversity and satisfaction to your everyday job versus previous work environments where you may have been micromanaged or felt hampered in a more traditional, hierarchical business.

Lastly, it is worth noting a general culture comparison between the two countries that can affect your working life. Not to stereotype here but the Australian approach can be far more direct and to the point compared to the traditionally reserved approach of the Brits. This can be very refreshing in many instances although may take some getting used to when you first arrive!

Thankfully, the opportunity for industry networking in Australia is certainly just as prevalent as it is in the UK although having a beer with your client in a pub garden somewhere is likely to be a far less formal affair than your typical client meeting. Especially once that sun comes out!

Want more info on moving to Australia and what to expect professionally?

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Liked this article? You may also find our previous blog interesting: ‘Is now the time to move to Australia?’