This is an interview with Ken Creighton, chairman of the board of trustees at the ICMS Coalition, and director of professional standards at RICS. The ICMS is attempting to standardise how quantity surveyors and related professionals estimate costs in construction projects worldwide. For a fuller explanation of this, watch the ICMS consultation videos here.
SHQ: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself, how you ended up as Director of Professional Standards at RICS and at the ICMS.
KC: Dean, thanks for the invitation to be interviewed and the good questions. Personally, I’m am American from Seattle working here in London for the past 15 years. 5 years ago, I joined RICS as the Director of Standards. Previously I was with the IFRS Foundation where I was a Director working with countries adopting IFRS. IFRS is the international standard for accounting. Before that role I worked for EY, the US Senate in Washington, DC, and in equity research.
Coming to RICS the focus has been international standards. We, RICS, are an international professional body. How do we operate as an international profession if we don’t have consistent international standards? Therefore we began a few key and complimentary projects covering all of the profession – International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS), International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS), International Land Measurement Standards (ILMS), and International Ethics Standards (IES).
A key strategic decision was made in how we approach these standards. In the past RICS has created its own standards. To ensure true international standards that are accepted in all markets, like the accountants did with IFRS, we decided to collaborate and share. I was elected to Chair the ICMS and IPMS Coalitions; each of them are true collaborations. RICS is just one of many partners. Across all of these projects we’re collaborating – and literally sharing the IP – with over 220 different organisations. It’s an international effort.
To answer the specific question, for ICMS, I was elected to be the current Chair by the Trustees.
SHQ: Why have common standards not existed previously?
KC: Good question. I would say, to the point of it being an embarrassment…. yes, why not?! This should have happened a long time ago. The reason it hasn’t, I believe, is a reality is human nature and politics. If you’re really interested and want to see more on my thoughts of the human nature and process of international standard setting, see https://vimeo.com/156543209 (pw: projectpipeline).
There are standards in this space all over the world. Producing standards is not the challenge. The challenge is that too many standards is no standard at all.
The model we’ve used to achieve this is to ensure everyone wins. Every organisation in the Coalition owns the intellectual property and shares in the benefits and kudos of having an international standard. We align the self-interest and public-interest.
SHQ: How is the public interest served by establishing new standards?
KC: Consistency and transparency. Much of our profession comes down to turning the world into numbers. Quality is a must, but what is the right and quality number can be subjective. The key need is consistency. We all need to have one shared standard to follow, so that professionals can then implement the standard and provide information and advance professionally. The public wins by having consistent data on which the world economy can function. When one compares a property or construction project on paper to make decisions the number they seeing need to be comparable.
How does one compare the costs of a project to build an airport in London or Singapore if there is no agreement as to what goes into cost? Once we have the agreed consistency we can compare apples to apples and government, investors, companies and other decision makes can make proper decision based on comparable data.
SHQ: What barriers or complications have you seen caused by a lack of international standards?
KC: It’s been said that anyone can have their own opinions, but nobody can have their own facts. These standards, delivered by professionals, provide facts. Therefore, the barrier or complication without these standards is that everything is just like an opinion. Without these standards governments, investors, companies and others can’t know they are getting value for money, efficiency or reducing risk.
Take a project like HS2 in the UK. I have head people claim it will cost 10x more than others. It’s a complicated one; how does one make business decisions without good understandable and reliable data? Another example with property measurement is a company that was building an office in New Delhi. They knew exactly how many square meters they needed per employee for 150 employees. However, during construction they saw they could only fit 100. When asking, the builders explained that they were getting the space…but that space included hallways, lifts, atrium, etc. With no standard of measurement, there is no clarity on what is included and what you are getting. The project fell through and was not completed.
SHQ: What do practising surveyors need to know about the new ICMS standards?
KC: Professionals should go to www.icms-coalition.org right now and respond to the current consultation document. Read it and give us feedback. Are we getting it right?
Another reason to read it now is to familiarise yourself with is so you can talk to your clients about it and figure out how to use it to add value in your work offering. My organisation, RICS, will be providing further detailed information guidance and other support. Other Coalition partners organisations are expected to do the same.
SHQ: What do student or trainee surveyors need to know? How does this affect the RICS APC?
RICS will be adopting ICMS and the other standards. They will be mandatory, a professional requirement and market expectation. The concepts will be included in the basic competencies of the APC. They will be a fundamental part of being a Chartered Surveyor. Current content such as Black Book and NRM will be updated and part of the RICS content offering to adopt ICMS.
SHQ: Do you have any suggestions for further reading or study?
KC: Watching the videos, and reading up on the ICMS website is a great place to start. We plan to launch ICMS in July 2017 at the PAQS conference in Vancouver Canada. Around that time there will be more publicity. And shortly following will be detailed implementation guidance and other materials.