In the early 1980’s, the profession of quantity surveying was indeed on very shaky ground due to the non-availability of professionally qualified Quantity Surveyors in Sri Lanka. The only source of accredited professional qualifications was from abroad, and therefore, at a price. The local quantity surveying education was limited to the technician level, with the courses being conducted at virtually all the technical colleges dotted throughout the country. It is within this context that the Department of Building Economics was established in 1983 with Prof. H.P.S. Caldera assuming duties as the first Head of the Department and Chair Professor of Building Economics. The proposal for an undergraduate course in quantity surveying was recommended by the Faculty of Architecture and the University in the latter part of the same year. In order to assist the formulation of the degree programme, the Construction Industry Training Project (CITP) funded the services of an expatriate adviser, Mr. B.C. Jupp, in late 1984. As a follow up, the British Council sponsored Dr. A.H. Spedding focusing on staff recruitment and training.

With the UGC approval to commence the course, the first batch of 18 students commenced the Honours degree of Bachelor of Science in Quantity Surveying (B.Sc. (QS) hons) in January 1986. The programme was accredited by the Institute of Quantity Surveyors Sri Lanka (IQSSL) from the first intake itself. That year also saw the appointment of Mr. T.P. Miskin as a Senior Lecturer and Mr. G.W. Jayaweera as a Visiting Lecturer of the Department. In 1988, Mr. M.J. Hucker joined as a Senior Lecturer under an Overseas Development Administration (ODA) contract. Mr. M.R. Hankock, a Senior Lecturer funded by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC), arrived in January 1989 further augmenting the staff strength in the Department. 

Easter 1989 dealt a blow to the rapid progress of the Department with the unexpected demise of Prof. H.P.S. Caldera. To fill this vacuum, Archt. Chitra Weddikkara (presently an Emeritus Professor of the department), who was an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Architecture at the time, was appointed as the Head of the Department in 1989. Subsequently, she proceeded to Australia to pursue Bachelor of Applied Science in Quantity Surveying at Curtin University of Technology. Prof. K.R.S. Peiris functioned as the Head of the Department of Building Economics until Archt. Weddikkara’s return. The recruitment of Archt. Lalith De Silva (presently an Emeritus Professor of the Department) as a Senior Lecturer further helped to strengthen the staff profile of the Department during this time. 

In December 1990, the Department conducted its first public awareness symposium on quantity surveying at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Late 1990 and early 1991 also saw the arrival of Mr. David Andrews (VSO) and Mr. Jamie Mackee (AVA) respectively to the academic staff. The Department was also fortunate to obtain the services of other VSOs (such as, Mr. Andrew Bish, Mr. Chris Harris, Mr. Richard Fellows, etc.) as academic staff members during these early years.

The year 1991 marked a significant milestone for the Department with the passing out of its first cohort of QS graduates. Of these graduates, four; namely Mr. Srinath Perera (presently serving as a Professor at Western Sydney University, Australia), Mr. Chatura Ranaweera (presently a Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada), Mr. Raufdeen Rameezdeen (presently an Associate Professor at University of South Australia, Australia), and Mrs. Sadhana De Silva (presently a practicing QS in Australia), were absorbed to the Department staff. In addition, Prof. Gemunu Fernando assumed duties as the Chair Professor of Building Economics.

During this year, there were also several distinguished visitors to the Department, the first being Prof. Peter Brandon, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Salford, UK. Since this first visit, Prof. Brandon has established firm links with the Department, providing invaluable input to the growth and development of the Department. Indeed, it was input from Prof. Brandon and the work of Mr. M.R. Hancock, that gave the initial impetus to seek accreditation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for the QS degree programme. As part of this decision to seek accreditation, Prof. David Wills, Dean, Faculty of Built Environment at the University of Greenwich, UK, was appointed as the Department's first external examiner. Further, the process of revising the old curriculum written by Mr. Jupp was undertaken by Mr. M.R. Hancock during the year. 

The year 1991 also saw the arrival of Prof. Ranko Bon, Bovis Professor of Construction Management and Economics at the University of Reading, UK and Prof. Denny McGeorge, the Head of the Department of Building at the University of Newcastle, Australia. 

In 1992, the amended curriculum of the undergraduate programme commenced, and a second symposium titled "Cost Control in Construction" was conducted by the Department at the BMICH. This was an extremely successful symposium organised entirely by the students with excellent participation from industry professionals. During the year, the Professor H.P.S. Caldera Memorial Resource Centre of the Department, was opened. In December 1992, three more graduates passing out from the second cohort; namely Mr. Janaka Ruwanpura (presently the Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President Research (International), University of Calgary, Canada), Mr. Indunil Seneviratne (presently a Senior Lecturer attached to the Department of Building Economics) and Ms. Nisa Zainudeen (presently a Consultant to the Department of Building Economics), were recruited to the Department.

In 1993, the Quantity Surveying Students’ Society (QSS) was founded by the undergraduates of the Department with the Head of Department as the patron and its objectives centering on student welfare. The society has established a fund to provide scholarships to students in need for the duration of their studies. Dr. Patricia Hillebrandt, a pioneer in the field of Construction Economics, also visited the Department during the year. She delivered the Professor Gemunu Fernando Memorial Lecture, following his sudden death in August, 1993. 

In 1994, the UNESCO UNITWIN link was formally established with the James Cook University, Australia as the main link partner and the University of Salford, UK as the secondary partner. 

In 1995, the Department organised its third symposium titled "Project Management - A Key to Success in Sri Lanka in the 21st Century" at the BMICH. During the year, Prof. Akatsuka from Japan, specialising in infrastructure development, visited the Department and conducted a series of guest lectures. 

In 1996, the Department took a significant step forward with the commencement of the Master of Science degree in Project Management. The programme was mainly developed by Mr. P.E.O. Oruko, International Labour Organisation Expert (Quantity Surveying/Building Economics) attached to the Department as a Senior Lecturer, who acted as the first Programme Coordinator. Mr. Oruko was also working as a Consultant for ICTAD in the Standard Method of Measurement Working Committee to revise SLS 573:1999 Method of Measurement of Building Works. In the same year, Dr. A.S. Jayawardena, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, conducted a very informative and well received lecture. 

The Department made a landmark achievement in 1997 when it received accreditation for the QS degree programme from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

In 1999, Archt. Lalith de Silva was appointed as the third Head of the Department. The QS degree programme was also accredited by the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS) in the same year further expanding the global mobility of graduates. 

In 2002, Archt. Chitra Weddikkara was promoted to Professor (on Merit) in the Department.

With the beginning of the new millennium, there were growing calls for an integrated approach to operating, maintaining, improving and adapting the buildings and infrastructure of an organisation to create an environment that supports the primary business objective of that organisation. Addressing this timely need, Prof. Chitra Weddikkara and Archt. Lalith De Silva initiated the development of the curriculum for the B.Sc. (Hons) in Facilities Management (FM) degree programme with the aim of producing professionals, who will be capable of managing facilities in the built environment. 

In 2005, Dr. Raufdeen Rameezdeen was appointed as the fourth Head of the Department. In the same year, the QS degree programme was converted to the university-wide standard modular system. The first cohort (100 students) of the FM degree programme also entered the University under his leadership during the year. 

Prof. Chitra Weddikkara was elected as the Dean, Faculty of Architecture in 2005, becoming the first woman to hold such a position within the University. She immensely contributed to the development of the Faculty during her tenure as the Dean, which ended in 2008.

In 2006, the FM degree programme received its first accreditation from RICS and the QS degree programme was reaccredited by the same professional body. With the commencement of the FM degree programme, the Quantity Surveying Student Society was expanded and renamed as Building Economics Students’ Society (BESS), representing the entire student body of the Department. Currently, the main activities of BESS include representing the students’ interests and providing various other assistance to students addressing their welfare needs such as, providing financial assistance, study materials, computer facilities, photocopying services and career guidance. Sarasavi Gee Sisila, widely regarded as the best outdoor musical programme within the university, department annual trip, cricket tournament, blood donation campaign and various other social gatherings are some of the annual events organised by BESS. The 24th chapter of the annual classical musical event ‘Sarasavi Gee Sisila’ was held in 2019. 

In 2007, the Department received Rs. 80 Million funding to construct its first own building under Phase 2 of the Proposed Building Complex for Faculty of Architecture.

In 2008, Ch.QS Indunil Seneviratne was appointed as the fifth Head of the Department and Dr. Rameezdeen was promoted to Professorship. The quest to produce qualified Quantity Surveyors for both local and international markets was an important agenda for the Sri Lankan Government during this time. Thus, the Sri Lankan government requested the Department to increase the student intake for the QS degree programme from 50 to 150. Accordingly, His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksha, in his Budget Speech 2008, proposed Rs. 75 Million to construct a second new building for the Department. 

Before the graduation of the first cohort of FM students, the Department organised a symposium at the BMICH in 2009 to introduce the FM degree programme and its graduates to the industry. Archt. Lalith de Silva was promoted to Associate Professorship in the same year.

The graduation of the first cohort of FM students of the Department was held in 2010. The QS degree programme was accredited by Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (CICES) during the year. Building Economics and Management Research Unit (BEMRU), the research arm of the Department, organised its first International Research Conference on Sustainability in Built Environment in 2010 at the Galle Face Hotel. The conference was organised jointly with the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE), UK.

In 2011, the Department opened its first five storeyed building. At the same time, as goodwill towards the government for its pledge for a second building, the QS intake was increased from 50 to 100. The QS degree programme received another accreditation from the Pacific Association of Quantity Surveyors (PAQS) in 2011. The PAQS accreditation consists of accreditations from Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors; Association of South African Quantity Surveyors; Building Surveyors Institute of Japan; Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors; The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors; Institute of Quantity Surveyors Sri Lanka; The Institute of Surveyors, Malaysia; New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors and Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers. During the same year, the Department commenced its second self-funded postgraduate programme, Master of Science in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution.

Further, in 2011, the Institute of Quantity Surveyors Sri Lanka (IQSSL) invited the Department to jointly organise the 15th Pacific Association of Quantity Surveyors (PAQS) World Congress on “Cost Management in a World Emerging from Adversity”. 

The year 2012 marked the first step of a series of annual symposia titled the “World Construction Symposium” organised by the Department in collaboration with the Ceylon Institute of Builders (CIOB). Throughout the years since its initiation, this symposia series has opened up various avenues for the Department for collaborations with numerous local and international academic and professional institutions such as Liverpool John Moores University, UK; The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong; Western Sydney University, Australia; The University of Newcastle, Australia; East Carolina University, USA; Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), India; Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand; Northumbria University, UK; Robert Gordon University, UK; Colombo School of Construction Technology (CSCT), Sri Lanka; International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB); and Built Environment Project and Asset Management (BEPAM): Journal, published by Emerald Group Publishing. The proceedings of the World Construction Symposium were indexed by Scopus in 2019 marking a landmark achievement. The symposium celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022.

The Department launched its third self-funded postgraduate programmed Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health Management in 2013. Prof. Lalith de Silva, Associate Professor of the Department, was elected as the Dean, Faculty of Architecture in December 2014. The QS student intake was further increased from 100 to 125 during this time.

Dr. Yasangika Sandanayake was appointed as the sixth Head of the Department in 2015. During her six-year tenure as the Head, the Department reached several significant milestones. The FM degree programme celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 2016 by organising a symposium themed “Expanding Horizons” at the OZO Colombo. The programme also received International Facility Management Association (IFMA) accreditation in 2019 expanding the accreditation portfolio of the Department. 

Recognising the importance of independent growth for the FM degree programme, the Department decided to initiate the process of establishing the new Department of Facilities Management under the Faculty of Architecture during 2019.

In 2019, work began on the second new building of the Department, which was pledged by the government to increase the QS student intake up to 150. The Department established several new labs equipped with latest equipment including a new computer lab with 100 computers, a Building Information Modelling lab with 50 computers, a Building Performance Lab and a Building Management Systems lab adding to the capital assets. 

Expanding the Department’s international reach and networks, several collaborations were initiated with foreign Universities such as the Northumbria University, UK; Liverpool John Moors University, UK; and Western Sydney University, Australia through MoUs signed between the institutions in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. 

Associate Prof. Lalith de Silva and Ch.QS Kanchana Perera were both promoted to Professorship in 2016. Further, Dr. Yasangika Sandanayake and Dr. Udayangani Kulatunga were promoted to Professorship in 2018. Dr. Nayanthara de Silva was also promoted to Professorship in 2019 further strengthening the academic staff profile of the Department.

The University appointed Prof. Mohan Kumaraswamy, a world-renowned academic attached to the University of Hong Kong as Honorary Professor of the Department in 2017. Prof. Kumaraswamy is also the Joint Co-ordinator of CIB W122 on Public Private Partnership and Editor-in-Chief of Built Environment Project and Asset Management journal published by Emerald Publishing. Dr. Asanga Gunawansa, former Assistant Professor attached to the National University of Singapore and an experienced Arbitrator, Mediator, Adjudicator and Negotiator, was appointed as the Adjunct Associate Professor of the Department in 2018.

In 2020, the entire world was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sri Lankan government ordered all educational institutions closed from 12 March 2020, including higher education institutions. Being pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic led the higher education institutions throughout the world to rush to remote learning. The Department was quick to adapt to this transformation to online delivery mode, utilising various digital platforms and applications such as, Moodle, DMS, LMS, Zoom, MS Teams and WhatsApp, to mitigate the effects of disrupted learning for students. 

In 2021, Ch.QS Suranga Jayasena was appointed as the seventh Head of the Department. During his tenure, the QS student intake was increased from 125 to 150 and the FM student intake was increased from 50 to 80. Phase II of the Department of Building Economics building was completed and handed over to the Department in 2021. 

Since the appointment of Prof. David Wills (University of Greenwich, UK) as the first external examiner in 1992, numerous other distinguished academics and industry practitioners have been appointed as external examiners in the Department. They include internationally recognised academics such as Prof. Allan Ashworth (University of Salford, UK), Prof. Peter Brandon (University of Salford, UK), Prof. Andrew Ross (Liverpool John Moores University, UK), Prof. Melvyn Lees (Birmingham City University, UK), Prof. Alison Cotgrave (Liverpool John Moores University, UK) as well as experienced industry practitioners such as Ch.QS H.D. Chandrasena (Cost Consultancy Services Pvt. Ltd.), Ch.QS Elmo Fernando (General Manager - Projects, Hevelock City Project), Ch.QS Shantha Fernando (Partner, Woodbridge Consultants), Mr. Remaz Ghouse (COO, Overseas Realty PLC) and Ch.QS Russell Coorey (Partner, Woodbridge Consultants). The input and constructive feedback from these examiners have been invaluable to improve the quality of the degree programmes.

In year 2022, the Department is on its 37th and 16th intakes for the QS and FM degree programmes respectively. Since its inception, the Department has produced around 1800 QS graduates and 600 FM graduates. Many of these graduates are now serving in top level positions in organisations both within the academia and industry. 

The academics produced by the Department are serving in prestigious universities around the world and have enabled the Department to build up a comprehensive global network with other academic institutions. These academics have become ambassadors for the two degree programmes. There are currently over 50 QS graduates who have completed their doctoral studies from prestigious Universities in Sri Lanka, Japan, UK, USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Out of these, 14 are currently serving as Professors while 04 others are serving as Associate Professors in Universities around the globe. In addition, around 12 FM graduates have also completed their doctoral studies from Universities in UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.

The Department is proud to continuously produce graduates who are highly in demand and readily employable. The graduate employability of QS and FM degree programmes remains close to 100% at the time of the convocation. The graduates are employed in leading organisations in Sri Lanka as well as overseas in countries such as UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Australia, UK, Oman, USA, Canada, Libya, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kuwait, New Zealand, Botswana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia and Poland. In fact, several of the senior QS and FM graduates are currently entrepreneurs, who have started their own QS and FM practices.

In addition, the Department’s first self-funded postgraduate programme on Project Management is currently on its 20th intake, while the Construction Law & Dispute Resolution and the Occupational Safety & Health Management postgraduate programmes are currently on their 7th intakes. To date, the Project Management programme has produced over 350 graduates. The Construction Law & Dispute Resolution and the Occupational Safety & Health Management programmes have produced over 100 and 30 graduates respectively.

Over the years, the Department has strengthened its postgraduate research student profile as well. To date, the Department has produced 05 PhD, 12 MPhil and 16 MSc (Major component by research) graduates. In addition, over 25 research students are currently pursuing their PhD, MPhil and MSc (Major component by research) degrees within the Department.

The Department also engages in a variety of other knowledge transfer and professional development activities. For instance, BEMRU, the research arm of the Department, has undertaken several local community and collaborative research projects with both local and international academic and industry partners. Further, the Department has also introduced a range of short courses and training programmes on preparation of BOQs, preparation of tender documents, estimation using CostX for buildings, New Rules of Measurement (NRM2), use of Standard Method of Measurement (SMM) for preparation of BOQ, etc, contributing to the professional development of industry practitioners.

Throughout, its nearly 40 years of history, the Department has strived to produce graduates with knowledge and skills to respond to new situations in Quantity Surveying, Facilities Management and related disciplines. Through the quality of graduates produced as well as its knowledge transfer and professional development activities, the Department has continuously grown through the years achieving national and global recognition. This has undoubtedly cleared the pathway for the University of Moratuwa to become a globally recognized University with an empowered environment for nurturing world-class graduates.