Thursday, July 31, 2008



On the first day God said to the angels “I wish to build a universe – how do I start?” “We need architects”, replied the angels in unison.

And so it came to pass that God created architects, and blessed them with imagination, creativity, professionalism and leadership. God was well pleased with his creations. “I want to build a universe”, He said to them, “and I created you to help me”.

“Good choice, now we need a whole team of engineers”, said the architects. “What for?”, God asked, somewhat puzzled. “For all the boring bits”, the architects thought to themselves, but they said “for all of the specialist structure design, and services etc”. “You mean for all of the boring bits”, said God, perceptively.

There was much down casting of eyes and shuffling of feet, but the architects were given the engineers they needed, and the project team was ready. They decided to call the first meeting to discuss the project at hand. “How many chairs will we need?’ asked God, “can anyone here count?” “Not us”’, said the architects, “we don’t count”. “Don’t ask us”, said the engineers, “we don’t count either”. God was mightily perplexed.

“It appears that we need one more consultant – someone to count things.” God said. The project team nodded in agreement. “What shall we call him?” God asked, “the Counter of Chairs?” The assembled consultants thought that this name was a little demeaning. The angels suggested Noter of the Numerological, Manager of the Mathematical, or Assessor of the Arithmetical. What about the “Surveyor of Quantities?” asked the architects. “Perfect”, said God “I shall create a quantity surveyor”.

And so God created the quantity surveyor who was pragmatic, reliable, suitably conservative, and with a good mind for numbers. Gave also gave him all the bits of knowledge left over from creating the architects and engineers. As thus it came to pass that he was nicknamed The QS (Quantity Surveyors).

Unfortunately, after creating so many architects and engineers, God did not have a suitable image left in his warehouse. All that was left was some pinstriped suits, bowler hats, dress shirts, and desert boots.

Perturbed by his somewhat inappropriate image the new quantity surveyor stepped out into the universe. His first task was to count the number of chairs required, and he got that right (actually it was within 10%, which he thought was quite close given market factors, escalation, unforeseen items and contingencies). But there was not much else to do, so he sat in the corner … and listened. The architect set about designing the earth and, oh, it was so beautiful!! It had lots of curves, and angles and squiggly bits, with glass mountains and pastel coloured textured render, adding those magic finishing touches.

The structural engineer designed the support system. A really big skyhook (plus two spares) held up by lots of beams and bolts. Very sturdy – very safe. The mechanical & electrical engineers designed a huge sun for the middle of the sky so as to make the earth warm and bright. A smaller yellow sun in the east for the morning, a big red one in the west for the evening, and a soft grey/blue one for the night, so that people could sleep. The Architect added lots of stars for effect. And God was well pleased. “Who will we get to build this wonderful universe?” He wondered. And lo He created the builder, and asked him how long would he expect it to take to build the universe.

After 40 days and 40 nights, the builder returned with his quote.

“Not seven days, not seven weeks, but seven times seven weeks”, said the builder, “and 30,000 pieces of silver”.

God was shocked.

“But I must have it in six days and for 30 pieces of silver”, said God, “the bibles are already printed”.

He called the consultants together for another meeting and told them He was concerned that the universe was going to take much too long to build. He added that He was concerned that it was also going to cost far too much to build.

“Terrible how much it costs to build a universe these days’’ muttered the architects”. “Good design takes time to build”, agreed the engineers. There was much rhetoric and shaking of heads, and God was almost ready to abandon the project.

“It could be done quicker and cheaper”, said the QS in a small voice from his dark corner of the room. “A few changes could reduce the time and cost significantly”.

“How do you know?” the consultants all asked, “you know nothing about building universes”.

God turned to the quantity surveyor and advised him that he had been created to count chairs. God added that He was well pleased with that initial effort, recalling that the quantity surveyor had got it right (within 10% anyway). “Please tell me how I can build this universe quicker and cheaper”. “Well for a start,” said the quantity surveyor, “make the earth round. All those curves, angles and squiggly bits are too expensive. Then delete all those skyhooks. If You create gravity and orbit the earth around the sun, it will stay there without any support. Also you don’t need the smaller suns for morning, evening and night”, the QS added with an air of authority. “Yeah, right”, said the mechanical and electrical engineers sneeringly, “It will be broad daylight all of the time and no one would be able to get any sleep”.

“Not if we spin the earth around”, said the QS. “Then the sun will not be shining brightly all of the time. Also a small moon, to reflect the sun at night, would not cost that much to build. And why not create some more builders to give a more competitive price?” the QS added. Verily, with much weeping and grinding of teeth, the consultants changed the design, and God created more builders. God then asked the QS to estimate how long the project would take to design and to build, and (naturally) how much would it cost.

“Based upon the information available, along with provisions for contingencies, escalation, market factors, etc, my initial preliminary budget estimate is seven days and 35 pieces of silver”, the QS said. “Great”, said God, “that is pretty close to my budget”. After another 40 days and 40 nights, the builders returned with their quotes. The lowest price was 30 pieces of silver, to be built in six days. The quantity surveyor was delighted. “At last I have proved my worth”, he thought. But the consultants were not happy.

“You messed with my design”, shouted the architect. “You know-it-all; leave our things alone”, said the engineers (however, nobody mentioned the reduction in their fees, as they were all too professional for that).

The QS was disillusioned and confused, and he turned to God for comfort. Surely God would be happy – all that time and money he has saved. God took the QS and told him that his estimate was wrong by 14%, and God chastised the QS for calling himself a Surveyor of Quantities. And so it came top pass that the QS was banished to the desert where he spent his time talking to accountants and lawyers.

He still counts chairs, and now also bricks, doors, windows and other bits. Some have left the profession to become tax collectors. He still gets asked by the consultants to provide estimates, but they don’t often ask him to interfere with their designs, and they don’t pay him very much.
As so it came to pass that everyone was happy.

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