In a traditional industry not known for its agility, arises VECTOR, a quantity survey services company that’s redefining progress with technology and vision.

John Allan (MCIOB)

Vector was formed in 2008 by owners John Allan and KT Chan with the aim of providing high quality quantity surveying services, at competitive rates, to a booming Hong Kong construction market.

Vector quickly established long term relationships with Tier 1 contractors such as Gammon, Leighton, Laing O’Rourke, Nishimatsu, Chun Wo and Hip Hing on major infrastructure and building projects and, by 2013, had grown to 25 full-time QS staff.

Two-for-One Service!   

In 2014, after closely monitoring the global introduction of digital engineering to the construction industry, Vector decided to invest in the future of both the company and its staff by employing BIM Engineers to promote the use of 3D/5D BIM solutions (i.e. the extraction of detailed and accurate quantities/costs from 3D models).

“This long-term investment included the re-training of QS staff from traditional techniques to use software to build 3D models and extract material quantities. By 2019, all of our employees will have a fundamental knowledge of 3D/5D BIM,” says the company’s co-founder John Allan.

“The introduction of BIM services has allowed Vector to provide a “two-for-one” service to its clients by continuing to provide QS measurement services whilst also providing fully quantified 3D models that can be utilised for many other practical purposes on a project.”

Winds of Change

Mr. Allan says the current global construction industry is not in a healthy state. “Construction is typically an antiquated industry slow to embrace change and continually suffers from the same mistakes. Margins are low, risks are high and competition is stiff. However, there is a ‘wind of change’ with respect to the introduction of digital engineering and efficiencies from ‘Lean Construction’.”

He adds: “To survive in this difficult industry, you have to be competitive, look for new efficient methods of working and, most importantly, you have to continually evolve! Evolution has been the heart of Vector’s investment in 3D/5D BIM. We did not see a future where we would survive offering only traditional QS services. We had to evolve as a company and evolve traditional QS working practices. Vector is now in a strong position to offer our clients QS services, with BIM solutions, and still maintain competitive rates.”

“Vector is now in a strong position to offer our clients QS services, with 5D solutions, and still maintain competitive rates.” – John Allan (MCIOB)

The New Reality

Vector has provided its 3D/5D BIM services on a range of projects from commercial and government buildings to tunnels, elevated highways, complicated road/underpass systems and underground metro stations.

“The primary advantage of our service is that we construct 3D models (with a QS ‘hat’ on to comply with stipulated methods of measurement) to then extract quantities in a format which follows the requirements of a Contract. Traditional QS companies are unable provide this service, nor can generic BIM service providers who do not have the necessary QS experience to code 3D models to follow specified methods of measurement. Vector has the advantage of experienced QS staff who now have the skills to operate various 3D software.”

Vector is still regarded a QS consultant.

This, Mr. Allan says, typically means “we are asked by clients to undertake measurement works and we take it upon ourselves to use our 3D/5D BIM capability to provide this service.”

He explains: “Whilst this fills a specific void, in the ‘big picture’ of a construction project, this is not always the best use of our service. For example, where a design team for a project has already developed BIM models this can result in overlap or duplication of works. The overriding problem is therefore this; Architects and Engineers do not have the capability to code or construct their models to also extract detailed quantities and, typically, they do not involve QS consultants with BIM capability in the design process.”

Vector’s target for future growth is therefore to get involved in the early stages of a project and collaborate with the design team to provide a fully consolidated model that both fulfills the project design requirements and also produces detailed and accurate quantities that can be used for detailed 5D project cost planning.

“Such collaboration is essentially the definition of ‘BIM’ but is currently being implemented on only a tiny fraction of projects worldwide. As mentioned, the construction industry is notoriously slow to embrace change, and such digital revolution may take a generation. However the future is certainly heading in this direction and Vector certainly plans to be part of this cultural change.”

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