The cost of a project needs to be accurately estimated as a part of the bid process for a project. Along with scheduling, planning, quality and safety and other aspects of a construction project, construction estimation actually has useful softwares that can be employed for the purposes of helping make the estimation process smoother. This blog aims to detail the software used in estimating and costing.
Before construction estimation was ever utilised in softwares aiming to make contractors lives easier, it was not even utilised given construction estimation as we understand it dates to the 18th century, albeit in a mor primitive form than is seen today. It was useful back then as it is now as it clearly has stuck around. Over time it has been refined and the process is a lot smoother today.
So what is construction estimation? Before we discuss construction estimation softwares we must first understand construction estimation. Construction estimation is a vital component of a construction project. It is the estimation as accurately as can possibly be done of the expenses expected to occur during a construction project for the purposes of maximising potential profit from a project. No estimate can be 100% accurate, however a software would most definitely help get closer to this number.
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.
It is important to note that construction estimation is not always done by one person and that cost estimators are not necessarily used by one person. The workload can be spread in a team with different members taking on different parts of the estimation with the tool being used to conduct construction estimation either making it more tedious or easier to collaborate with multiple members.
Construction estimation is an important part of the bid process. Contractors and builders will submit a bid consisting of the estimation of the costs to project owners which will summarise the costs they expect to incur during the development of the project. However, when dealing with large companies or government contractors. These larger entities will receive numerous bids from different contractors and from there they will decide the winning contractor they want to proceed with. So suffice it to say estimation is a crucial part of the construction project.
The quantities and costs to be incurred in a project are related to the materials, labour and any other relevant factors in the project. These can be found on the construction takeoff which is also an important part of the construction project and aids in estimation of a project’s costs.
Further expanding on the concept of construction takeoff. For estimation to occur there must be construction takeoff. This is simply because you cannot just estimate nothing, you need to research and know what you are estimating, hence a comprehensive list of costs and materials need to be assembled. The term ‘takeoff’ refers to the estimator taking off the required materials from a project’s blueprint. For instance you would find the labour estimates are found from the takeoff list which details the amount and cost of the labour required to complete a project.
Takeoff’s are crucial to a project’s profitability as it’s imperative to know the costs of the materials not just the labour needed to complete the project as these can vary widely depending on factors such as the market and the location of the project. Construction takeoffs must be done for all sizes of project’s from larger projects to much smaller projects which can include basic renovations.
When it comes to construction estimation softwares there are various softwares on the market, in fact there are four categories of softwares known as spreadsheets, takeoff softwares, business information modelling and lastly construction estimation softwares which will be the main focus of this blog.
The first type to look at are spreadsheets. This is the oldest form of estimation software. It is also the least accurate due to the simple fact that spreadsheets are highly vulnerable to human error, however it is still widely used in the industry.
Data is gathered for the spreadsheet such as all the materials and their quantities which must be known to provide an accurate as possible estimate. The downsides of using a spreadsheet such as the aforementioned fact of them being human error prone can be expanded by detailing that errors can happen when entering data into a spreadsheet and this problem grows exponentially with the size of a project. The more complex a project is, the worse this problem becomes.
Spreadsheets are also not ideal for collaboration on a project, as estimation can be done by team and if a team has members working on different things then consolidating all of their work and coordinating it into a complete estimation can be extremely tedious.
There are also construction takeoff softwares. As aforementioned takeoffs provide the costs of materials along with any other associated costs and are paired with labour and storage costs as examples of other types of costs that are combined together eventually for a project’s estimation.
On the surface and through an explanation construction takeoffs seem quite straightforward and easy to do, they are however anything but simple. It is actually quite complex and requires a highly skilled individual to carry out the task on top of it being quite time consuming. Despite this, there are construction takeoff softwares that aim to streamline the process.
The reality of construction takeoff softwares is that the process is completed in the software the same way as it would have been manually. So what is the benefit? The benefit is that through the automation of all the steps of construction takeoff the process is a lot quicker and smoother.
The next form of estimation software to look at is through the use of BIM or Building Information Modelling. BIM is simply a collaborative process where different parties relating to a construction project that can include real estate developers, architects, engineers and contractors can all work together to create a structure digitally.
BIM produces a 3D representation of that structure, however it is so much more than just 3D. The power of BIM comes from the ‘I’ which stands for information as BIM is made up of objects that contain a lot of information that is extremely useful in a project. The information can for example include information on the materials to the logistics associated. BIM can also be utilised to analyse existing buildings for the purposes of renovation.
It is important to note BIM’s accuracy in estimation depends upon the completeness of the 3D model and how accurate it is, so results may vary and can potentially be less accurate that 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.
Lastly, there are construction estimation softwares which 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.
To start off it is advised that while sifting through the construction software marketplace for a suitable construction estimation software, there will be various softwares that look appealing based in various different countries. It is important to note your location during this search. If you’re based in Australia you will want to go for an Australian construction estimation software. This is due to the fact that Australian estimation softwares will work well with local rates on labour and materials made available by local municipalities, banks and bureau of statistics among other organisations.
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.
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