One of the most important stages in a construction project’s lifetime is the estimation stage. Estimation referring to the estimation of the costs associated with a project. Simply, it is imperative to know how much a project is going to cost, otherwise how can a project have a chance at profitability?
Construction estimation itself dates back to the 18th century in a more primitive form and clearly it was a great addition to construction as it is still a feature today, in fact it is a must. However, it has gone through changes and would have been refined over time, possibly making that process much smoother. It is effective now, as it would have been effective in the past.
Before we delve into the tools that are used by construction estimators we must first understand exactly what construction estimation is. An indispensable and key component of construction projects it is as aforementioned the estimation/prediction of the expenses expected to be incurred in the duration of the construction project. It is important to note no estimate can be 100% accurate, which should be evident in the word ‘estimate’. This does not mean that the estimate should not be accurate. Quite the opposite, it should be as accurate and precise as possible and to the highest standard.
Construction estimation itself isn’t necessarily conducted by one individual, it can be done by a team of people, which as will be later expanded on can become tiresome depending on the method of estimation being utilised or the medium through which estimation is conducted for a project.
Construction estimation also exists as a form of estimating the costs for the bid process of a construction project. Contractors and builders will submit an estimation of the costs to project owners which will summarise the costs they expect to incur during the whole development of the project. However, it works a little differently 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.
When it comes to estimation and what tools are utilised by construction estimators, essentially they have several routes they can go. Either they can go the traditional route or go for more current forms of estimation. The two most common are spreadsheets and estimation softwares, with the latter becoming increasingly popular. This blog will detail those different forms or tools for estimation that are employed by construction estimators.
Your standard spreadsheet is the first tool to be utilised, and it is the most outdated out of all the other options. This is the aforementioned traditional route that an estimator can take with their estimation as opposed to a more current route.
Surprisingly a decent amount of builders still employ the likes of Excel for estimation spreadsheets in order to do their estimations for the expenses of a project, recording all their data and displaying it accordingly in an appealing enough format for the customer.
Materials and quantities must be known during the pre construction phase which is included in the data that is then gathered for the spreadsheet where the estimation takes place. Unfortunately this method of construction estimation has major downsides that can be quite detrimental to the whole focus of construction estimation which is the accuracy in which it is completed.
Spreadsheets are vulnerable to human error and as such mistakes can most definitely occur when entering values into small boxes or fields manually. The larger the size of the construction the bigger this problem becomes and the more complex a project the more room there is to mess up. The issue with this goes further as the more accurate an estimation the more assurance there can be for the profitability of a project, however the nature of a spreadsheet as just discussed can affect that potentially.
It is also important to note that spreadsheets simply 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 decides to leave then so do their methods and calculations. This then leaves you in a potentially less than ideal situation. Having a platform that enables standardisation allows other team members to participate in the estimation process and makes it more collaborative.
Building Information Modelling
BIM as it’s known which stands for Building Information Modelling, is a collaborative process in which various different parties associated with a construction project which may include contractors, architects, engineers for example, possibly even real estate developers as well, will collaborate to create a digital structure of building.
The digital structure produced through BIM’s capabilities is a 3D representation of a building, one that contains a large amount of information on the building all the way from materials to logistics, it can also be used to analyse existing buildings for the purposes of renovation.
Estimation for construction purposes can be done through the use of the comprehensive BIM software as well, so it is a form of estimation itself. It is conducted through the mapping of the components of a 3D building model to materials and labour as well as equipment costs.
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 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.
Before talking about takeoff softwares we need to establish what exactly is a construction takeoff? A takeoff is essentially the list of the costs for all the materials for a project, and it is usually compiled before the actual estimation occurs. It is technically a part of the estimation process as those materials costs are crucial to the accurate estimation of a project, hence it is vital to the success of that project.
Construction takeoffs provide the costs of materials along with any other associated costs and are paired with labour and storage costs together. While it may sound extremely straightforward to the unaware, it is anything but that. In fact it is quite a complex task requiring someone proficient in that tasks with the necessary skill and competency.
Due to this fact, there are now softwares that cater to the preparation of construction takeoffs known as take off softwares. Construction takeoffs are produced in the same way through software as it would be done manually. The necessity of the software comes in its ability to automate those same steps you would do manually by saving you time.
Specialised Estimating Software
Construction estimation software aims to make estimating the costs of a project easier. The costs expected to be incurred in a project themselves are related to various components of a project such as the materials, labour and equipment. The quantities and costs of these components must be accurately calculated. The labour estimates are found from the takeoff list as aforementioned which details the amount and cost of the labour required to complete a project.
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.
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.