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Elemental cost estimating: current UK practice and procedure

Michail Soutos (Management of Projects Research Group, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
David J. Lowe (Centre for Research in the Management of Projects, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Financial Management of Property and Construction

ISSN: 1366-4387

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




The aim of this paper is to establish the extent to which quantity surveyors undertake cost planning and the manner in which elemental cost estimating is currently applied. Elemental cost analysis is perhaps the best known product‐based cost model and provides the data upon which elemental cost planning is based. The technique has been used by quantity surveyors to base their predictions during the design stage since the 1950s. There has, however, been no recent attempt to establish the extent to which practicing quantity surveyors use this technique (if indeed they still do so) and the manner in which cost analysis is currently carried out.


A nationwide questionnaire survey of UK quantity surveying practices was undertaken. The survey sought to establish: the extent to which elemental cost estimates are prepared for proposed developments; the format used to prepare these estimates (together with the degree to which the BCIS Standard Form of Cost Analysis (SFCA) is still used); the factors that affect the use of elemental cost estimates; and the level of the detail to which these estimates are analysed. Further, the survey investigated the predilection within the surveying profession for single‐figure and elemental format cost models.


The study clearly establishes that UK quantity surveying practices routinely undertake elemental cost planning during the design phase of a project and that the BCIS SFCA is the most popular approach to cost planning. Further, it establishes that while around 70 per cent of the respondents would not currently use single figure estimating software, between 85 and 95 per cent indicated that they would be encouraged to use it if it was able to generate an elemental breakdown of its prediction.


The paper offers insights into the current use of cost planning and analysis methods in the UK.



Soutos, M. and Lowe, D.J. (2011), "Elemental cost estimating: current UK practice and procedure", Journal of Financial Management of Property and Construction, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 147-162.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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