Estimation is a necessary part of construction projects. It however, does not have to be inefficient as it so often can be. This article aims to explore construction softwares and how they can help increase efficiency in construction estimation and how can you save using an effective construction estimation software.
Before diving into this exploration, let us unpack what construction estimation is. Construction estimation is an extremely vital component to the success of a construction project. It is effectively, the estimating as accurately as possible the costs associated with a construction project, this includes all future expenses that may be incurred for a construction project.
It is important to note that a construction estimation won’t be 100% accurate. However it is an absolute must that it is as accurate as possible and this is something a software can most definitely aid in.
Construction cost estimating includes the project scope and project construction costs and the allocation of costs. There are several reasons to have cost estimates. The cost itself is important in the bid process, cost estimates help increase the accountability in a project and make sure everything is transparent.
The costs associated with a project and that will be incurred are related to various elements in the project such as the materials, labour and the equipment required to complete the project. These must all be estimated. Materials required for the project for instance, may be found from a takeoff list which can go hand in hand with creating a construction estimation of a project and a construction estimation software should help facilitate this process which will be expanded on later.
A reason for construction estimation that can occur is the bid process. It is this process that sometimes a project’s costs must be accurately estimated. Several construction companies may even bid for a project, so it is important an estimation is done properly as this can help win a bid.
To highlight the effectiveness of a specialised construction estimation software or alternatively a construction management software that includes construction estimation as a part of its service, we must first look at other methods of construction estimation. Looking at the glaring problems in these other approaches can help demonstrate the need for change to a more efficient platform.
The first method of estimation that is to be analysed is spreadsheets. Nowadays, with the advent of specialised estimation tools and with how the industry is shaping, spreadsheets can be seen as a more outdated approach to construction estimation with gaping holes in its effectiveness.
A lot of contractors and builders seem to still utilise excel spreadsheets as their go to tool for estimating a project. In all fairness it has worked for them so far, however that does not mean it doesn’t have its issues or that you can significantly gain more benefits by switching to something better.
They utilise spreadsheets as a means for estimation but also to record all the data and portray it in an appealing format for the customer. An extremely crucial part of the pre construction phase, it is required in estimation that all the materials and quantities are known to provide an accurate estimate which is a part of the actual data gathering for the spreadsheet.
Unfortunately estimation conducted on a spreadsheet has its issues which will be discussed. These issues can be disastrous to the process of construction estimation as well as calamitous to the point of it too, which is to provide an accurate estimate of the expenses of a project which is for the sake of ensuring the profitability or the assumed profitability of a project.
One of these issues is human error. Spreadsheets are prone to human error and do very little to minimise this feature of being human as naturally we make mistakes. To expand on the mistakes we make, people may make mistakes in entering data into the fields of the spreadsheets and this problem grows exponentially with the size of a project. The more complex a project, the more that there is for error to creep in.
Spreadsheets also do not let you standardise your estimation process by using data from previous projects. Due to this the process is very manual and repetitive and is not very time efficient. If your estimator leaves so does their methods and calculations that leave you in a potential mess. Having a platform that enables standardisation allows other team members to participate in the estimation process and makes it more collaborative.
Building Information Modelling
Building Information Modelling or BIM for short is a collaborative process in which various different parties including contractors, architects, engineers and even real estate developers to name a few potential users are enabled to work together to create a structure or building digitally. It is a largely collaborative tool.
What BIM does for a quick background is it produces a 3D representation of a building or structure. This representation will contain a whole host of important information on the building from the materials all the way to the logistics, it can also be used to analyse existing buildings for the purposes of renovation among other uses.
Estimation can actually be done through the use of BIM software as well, so in its own right can be seen as a form of estimation itself. How it is conducted is through the mapping of the components of a 3D building model to materials and labour as well as equipment costs.
It should be noted however, BIM’s accuracy in estimation depends upon the completeness of the 3D model and how accurate it is therefore results may vary and can potentially be less accurate than more traditional methods. Cost estimating can be performed in BIM by associating quantities or amounts to cost data which can be recorded for future use.
Specialised Estimating Software
A construction estimation software should enable builders to effectively estimate the costs of the project and should streamline and really pull along the process of creating accurate estimates. The estimates should be created based on labour, materials and other cost factors of the project and it should create line-by-line and quantity estimates of the materials utilising pre-determined formulas and calculations.
As aforementioned in relation to the issues found with spreadsheets, a specialised estimation software should allow you to easily avoid these mistakes by having an user friendly system that does a lot of the work for you, it should simply take you through the steps of the estimation.
There should be standardisation in an estimation software that allows you to create and re-use estimation templates with categories and costings you may want to go back to and edit as well to your liking. Things such as creating orders through the system and variations based on client request should be a piece of cake and all be recorded for future reference.
It is hard to discuss construction estimation without discussing construction takeoffs. What are construction takeoffs however? Construction takeoffs for those unfamiliar are essentially the outline of all the materials required for a construction project as well as their amounts with the unit of measurement specified project.
It is a seemingly simple sounding process but is tedious and quite difficult. It requires the individual completing the work to be quite skilled and proficient at what they are doing. Takeoffs are based on the plan of the project that is being constructed. Based on this plan, the individual conducting the takeoff will measure different parts of the plan and done to scale will figure out the amounts of each material needed.
The materials and their information compiled from the takeoff process can be a crucial part for an effective estimation, hence this area would be one that would benefit from a software as well. It is technically closely aligned with construction estimation and goes hand in hand and is overall an important part of the success of a construction project being executed properly.
Construction takeoffs are produced the same through a software as done manually, why the software is necessary is not that the steps to making the takeoff are different, rather it automates them, streamlining the process of producing a construction takeoff software and making the process a whole lot easier and less time consuming.
A construction software that has the tools necessary to conduct a construction takeoff will allow you to upload your plan and using a scale and legend, scale your plan to the software and your device and hence using the tools trace and measure around different parts of the plan and conduct the measurement faster and easier than if done by hand. Furthermore, you should be able to compile and link a take off list and add them to your estimation costs and categorise them as well.
A good construction software makes use of good project management functionality, estimate and financial/accounting tool functionality, job management, scheduling and planning and support functionalities and more. WunderBuild is a construction management software that aims to provide all of these functionalities and more to bring out the best outcomes for a project.
It is currently offering a free trial, visit here to try WunderBuild for free.