While the surveying profession covers a range of disciplines, quantity surveyors are particularly concerned with issues related to contractual arrangement and cost control.
"In order to cope with the challenges ahead, professionals in the field need to develop new skill sets to add value for their clients," says Francis Leung, senior vice president, the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS). "Networking with mainland and international bodies should also be increased in order for local surveyors to maintain a competitive edge."
The HKIS, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, focuses on setting standards for the professional services offered by surveyors, drawing up ethical codes for the profession, determining the requirements for admission to the HKIS and encouraging members to continuously upgrade their skills.
With a member profile exceeding 7,200 surveying professionals, the HKIS is Hong Kong's only professional organisation representing the surveying profession.
There are three key areas that the institute hopes to address in future, Mr Leung notes. These include improving networking with the mainland China industry, helping members to enhance their professional status through programmes and courses, and connecting with more international associations to drive career development and business opportunities.
In a nutshell, surveying concerns the measurement, management, analysis and display of spatial information describing the physical features of the earth and the built environment. The profession includes a range of disciplines, from land and general practice surveyors to planning and development surveyors and building and quantity surveyors.
Mr Leung remarks that the field has become more challenging with the expansion of the scope of the profession in recent years. As a result, quantity surveyors need to have a good grasp of the technical knowledge related to building materials, and keep themselves up to speed with legal changes concerning contractual obligations.
Hong Kong firms are facing stiff competition from abroad as businesses attempt to cut professional fees through low-tender bidding. Mr Leung considers unhealthy for the future development of the industry and believes it leaves negative impacts on recruitment prospects.
Each year, the HKIS runs a range of annual conferences, regular training seminars and workshops. In a bid to keep members updated on the latest know-how, it also teams up with other professional bodies to offer development programmes.
Topics discussed at the HKIS conferences always tie in with the latest industry developments. For instance, the institute recently invited Carrie Lam, secretary for development, to address members. On another occasion, high-profile speakers from the mainland shared their insights on construction projects related to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at the institute's annual conference in August.
Every three years, the HKIS members are required to undergo 60 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training organised by the institute or another professional body to ensure that their services remain at the required professional high. "We also use our website and newsletters to help members keep their fingers on the pulse," Mr Leung says.
With increasing sophistication in the construction industry, the HKIS intends to introduce training programmes on best practices and on new professional approaches such as "public private partnerships".
Crossing the border
In July, relevant academic and executive authorities on the mainland accepted applications from 65 Hong Kong-based quantity surveyors to register as cost engineers, paving the way for the establishment of businesses on the mainland.
However, there is still some disparity when it comes to the recognition of Hong Kong quantity surveyors' qualifications and professional status on the mainland, Mr Leung remarks. This can hinder future business opportunities, and for this reason the HKIS' main agenda is to promote synergy between Hong Kong and mainland institutions.
Although the HKIS has a good international presence and reciprocal agreements with professional surveying and valuation institutes in the UK, Australia and Singapore, it will continue to promote wider recognition of locally trained surveyors' professional qualifications.
"Since the public generally does not have such a good understanding of surveying, we also believe it is important to increase awareness of the profession. If people understand the value and status of quantity surveyors, more talented individuals would be attracted to the profession, thereby bolstering its future development," Mr Leung concludes.