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RICS 150

James Nisbet: Elemental Cost Planning

James Nisbet FRICS revolutionised the industry through the expansion of classrooms sizes, allowing schools to have a greater intake of children at no additional cost.

24 November 2017

James Nisbet FRICS is the developer of the Elemental Cost Planning technique. He formulated the technique whilst working at the Architects and Buildings branch in the Ministry of Education and published his ideas in Building Bulletin No.4 in 1951.

Its ability to benefit wider society was perhaps best demonstrated by Nisbet himself in 1951, when he managed to cut the costs of primary schools from £200 per place in 1949, to £140 in 1951. His designs allowed space outside classrooms to be reduced to create bigger classrooms thereby allowing existing schools to take in extra pupils at no additional cost.

Building Cost Information Service

James Nisbet’s technique was further developed by the Building Cost Information Service at RICS. This has included a national online database of over 16,000 cost analyses for specific elements of design, which enable accurate cost estimates for projects across the UK.

Elemental Cost Planning also gave birth to the Standard Form of Cost Analysis (SFCA). The SFCA is vital when comparing the costs of separate building functions and allowing information from existing projects to become the benchmark for future ones.  

Sadly James passed away in 2009, but his influence over the profession and reputation as an innovator lives on.

Pride in the Profession

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of RICS. To celebrate this milestone, we're launching our Pride in the Profession initiative to showcase the significant and positive impact surveyors have made to society. We've already dug into the archives to find some exceptional examples, like the one above. By promoting these incredible people and projects we want to demonstrate how varied and rewarding a surveying career can be.

To make it happen, we need you to nominate the people and projects you admire most.