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Following the recent publication of CESMM4 Revised: Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement and CESMM4 Revised: Handbook, Mike Attridge, experienced chartered quantity surveyor and commercial manager, answers 10 of the most frequently asked questions about the Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement.

ICE Publishing at the Frankfurt Book Fair
10 Things you need to know about CESMM4
  • Updated: 30 Oct 2019
  • Author: by Mike Attridge, Trebes Consulting Limited

1. Who wrote CESMM4 Revised: Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement?
 The Institution of Civil Engineers. 

2. What does "CESMM" stand for? 
The “Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement”. 

3. Why was CESMM4 Revised: Handbook written?  
This was written to accompany the recently published CESMM4 Revised, and has as its main purpose, to explain in greater detail the various measurement rules and the principal objectives for a Bill of Quantities prepared in accordance with CESMM4 Revised

4. What is a bill of quantities? 
A Bill of Quantities is a document prepared in accordance with published detailed rules of measurement. It comprises a list of items that provide descriptions and quantities of the proposed construction works, and it is used for the purpose of obtaining tenders for a construction project. 

5. What does CESMM cover/what types of projects is it used for? 
In short, CESMM is intended to be used for works of civil engineering when the design has been substantially completed by the client’s designer, enabling a bill of quantities to be prepared in accordance with the detailed rules of measurement set out in CESMM. 

6.  Do you have any advice on how to make the best use of the CESMM4 Revised: Handbook
I believe that the CESMM4 Revised: Handbook is an essential read for anyone embarking on the preparation of a Bill of Quantities for anything other than a simple, low-value civil engineering project. It explains the philosophy behind a CESMM-based Bill of Quantities and explains in greater detail than CESMM4 the reasons work is measured the way it is.   

7. How is CESMM used during tendering?
A bill of quantities effectively is a “model” in words (item descriptions) and numbers (quantities) of the work included in a contract which is used to seek prices from tenderers. Having been prepared independently of the tenderers (typically by a civil engineer or quantity surveyor engaged by the client) it ensures that tenders are obtained on the same basis i.e. based on the same “model”. The alternative is to let tenderers prepare their own quantities which can lead to the tenderer who made the most mistakes being awarded the contract. 

8. How is CESMM used to value variations? 
The rates against the items in the Bill of Quantities can be used as a starting point for the evaluation of changes/variations. 

9. How can CESMM help with Risk Management?
The act of preparing a Bill of Quantities before a tender yields a major benefit to the client. This is because the process and discipline involved in preparing a Bill of Quantities in accordance with the detailed rules of the CESMM requires an extremely thorough interrogation of the drawings and specifications prepared by the designer. Experienced bill compilers will know that the preparation of a bill is the next best thing to actually constructing the works in determining the “completeness” of the design, and very often it is not only the “completeness” of the design that can be verified, but also aspects of its “adequacy”.  
This benefit of the Bill of Quantities (i.e. enabling the early identification and rectification of design “shortcomings”) can save the designer a little embarrassment but more importantly, and it can also save the client a great deal of money.  When inadequate and incomplete design information is only discovered further down the line by the contractor it will often delay or disrupt the progress of the works with more serious financial consequences for the client.
A second role that the Bill of Quantities fulfils in the management of risk is that it ensures that tenders are obtained based on the same understanding of the work and quantities involved. That is, tenderers will always want to restrict their expenditure on the speculative exercise of competitive tendering. If they have to prepare their own quantities of the work to a tight tender deadline they can be tempted to “cut corners”. This can lead to errors and many a contract has been awarded to a contractor who under-estimated the full nature and extent of the proposed work based on its own inaccurate assessment of the quantities.

10. What’s the history of CESMM4?
The first edition of the CESMM was pubishedin 1976. I believe that this was the first time that a standardised method for drafting bills of quantities for civil engineering works had been produced. Prior to this, the order and nature of bill items, the units of measurement, and even the method of tabulating this information into columns, varied considerably.  This would have made the task of pricing the bill of quantities much more difficult than it is today. Martin Barnes played an important role throughout the development of CESMM which is now in it’s fourth version. The latest version of the method, CESMM4 Revised, the revised fourth edition of the Civil Engineering Method of Measurement, was published in June 2019. This brings the method into line with the most recent developments in the railway industry. 

You can browse and order the following CESMM titles: 
CESMM4 Revised: Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement 
CESMM4 Revised: Handbook 
CESMM4 Revised book bundle: CESMM4 Revised and CESMM4 Handbook 
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