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November 13, 2013

Estimating Construction Projects with Greater Intelligence

C  Users ARogers Documents 1Website   SilverTech mages IStockPhoto Purchases Estimating 300x200Like following a new recipe to create an exotic entrée, the first steps in planning your next construction project will determine how successful it will be at delivering on promises made to the client. As many professionals know, construction estimating delivers critical baselines that form the project budget and yield important information about how to price all aspects of the job, from labor to materials to safety programs. Any missteps early in the planning stages can have serious consequences well after the project has kicked off.  According to David Ayers, Senior Certified Consultant at United Solutions, "Industry specific or customized databases tailored to the line of work your company performs will kick start the implementation of estimating for users."

Better Tools Drive Informed Decisions

Just as accuracy is critical for what’s found in a mixing bowl, it likewise plays a pivotal role when project teams assemble in the pre-construction phase. What makes construction estimating a challenge is its reliance on conceptual models that must guide project team members to determine quantities and pricing before ground is even broken.   

With project budgets under increasing scrutiny as belts tighten and competition growing for public dollars, contractors need to find effective tools for corralling the many elements of a project – including structural systems, M/E/P components, restoration initiatives, and even green building – in order to deliver a budget that is realistic and manageable.

In the past, construction teams would be forced to break out calculators and pencils to assemble a budget, at least until Excel spreadsheets became the preferred mechanism. However, this process was both time-consuming and potentially error-prone, leading to the adoption of automated tools for organizing construction budgets and determining a projected final cost.

Software can streamline pre-construction tasks, including estimating, by creating trade-specific databases to quickly determine pricing for the project while also making it possible to incorporate last-minute changes as the pre-construction phase draws to a close.

Delivering Value in Real Time

Estimating today also reflects a shift towards other forms of technology that take some of the guesswork out of predicting a project’s total cost. Tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) dovetail with the transition to construction estimating software, and in both instances, these platforms are far more scalable to owner preferences than traditional methods involving pencil and paper. In addition, contractors that adopt these advancements can also utilize digitizing and electronic takeoffs to build even more efficiency into their estimating workflow.  According to USI's David Ayers, "Integrated estimating works by driving the estimate from your digital takeoff software and makes Excel seem like a horse drawn buggy."

Information is the key to a great recipe, much like it is for intelligently estimating construction projects. The estimator’s role is critical to ensuring a proper budget is developed and that the final numbers reflect up-to-the-minute information regarding materials pricing and the latest subcontractor bids. By using a solution that provides both greater accuracy and speed, contractors will undoubtedly benefit from taking an intelligent approach to estimating.

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