Construction projects have various different facets to them. There is a lot going on to say the least. There are so many different phases in a construction project from inception to completion. A lot of careful planning must be done before arriving at the final product. This includes various parts of the project such as the estimation/takeoff, finances and accounting, scheduling/planning as well as ensuring quality and safety which must be adhered to throughout the project.

The different aforementioned parts of the project, each as crucial as the other, can be incorporated into a construction management software for the purposes of project management. A project manager must be across these different elements and must work with different members of the construction team to complete a project. 

A construction management software is a platform where different members of a construction team can collaborate on different areas of a project respectively. It can contain those aforementioned factors, all of them, some of them or choose to focus on one of them, such as a construction scheduling software or a construction takeoff software, that will focus specifically on construction takeoffs.

This blog aims to illuminate why construction softwares is preferable to manual construction project management methods. By focusing on a few key areas such as estimations/takeoffs and scheduling, the various benefits of utilising software over manual more traditional methods of completing the work will be highlighted and touched upon. First, we must establish the idea of construction management softwares and what they entail.

The first area to look at is project management. Project management encompasses objectives with the intention to build within limitations including time and resource constraints. Hence, it is important for project management to be wary of the scope, financial cost and budget, as well as the quality of a project and the time constraints of a project. A project must take these factors into account before haphazardly commencing construction. 

In terms of project management a construction management software will incorporate various areas of construction related to a construction or project manager, however it will also include other areas that the manager can keep tabs on such as the construction scheduling, which may be done by a construction scheduler, but everything being on the one platform enables effective collaboration.

Project management within software essentially ensures a project manager has access to estimation tools, quality and safety protocols, workflows, calendars, financial/accounting tools, scheduling tools and production calendars for managing time and scope constraints, secure cloud storage for file transfer and document uploads and lastly an efficient communication platform for ease of communication with team members.

The next area to look at is construction estimation. There are various skilled individuals involved in the construction process among them is the construction estimator. A construction project must be estimated for a variety of reasons, one of them being, how can you construct something without having no idea how much it costs? You can run out of funds, you can make big losses on a project, it’s not worth the risk.

It is obvious that without a construction estimator, estimating the costs of a project effectively, that a construction project simply would not commence in today’s world. This signifies the importance of construction estimation itself. 

Construction estimation as a practice can be dated to the 18th century in a more primitive form. It was effective then and it is just as effective now as it is still clearly being used and adopted as it is a must for the success of a construction project. However, nowadays the process is a lot smoother and has evolved significantly since its early days when it was introduced.

What exactly is construction estimation? Before we delve into the softwares that can be utilised, we must first understand construction estimation itself? Construction estimation is a vital part of the construction process. It is the estimation or predicting as accurately as possible the future expenses to be incurred in a construction project for a building. However, no estimate can be 100% accurate, it is imperative the estimate is as accurate as possible, and a software can most definitely aid in this. 

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 expected to be incurred in a project are related to various elements such as the materials, labour and equipment. The quantities and costs of these must be calculated. The labour estimates are found from the takeoff list which details the amount and cost of the labour required to complete a project.

There are a variety of methods utilised for construction estimation such as spreadsheets and BIM. Let’s take a look at them and see why they are not preferable to construction estimation software.

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are by far one of the most outdated methods used for construction estimation. You would be surprised how many builders still utilise this method to save money. To this day a lot of contractors and builders still utilise excel spreadsheets as their choice method of estimating the costs of a project. Utilising spreadsheets, they record all their data and portray it in an appealing format for the customer.

Why is using spreadsheets not preferable? The simple answer is it is greatly prone to human error as people make many mistakes in entering the data into the spreadsheets field, this is more common than you would know. This human error issue grows along with the size of the project along with the rise in complexity of the project.

Furthermore, spreadsheets do not allow you to standardise your estimation process as you cannot use data from previous projects. Due to this, the process is extremely manual having you repeat it over and over again and is simply not time efficient. 

Spreadsheets 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. 

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.

What BIM essentially does is it produces a 3D representation of a building. It is not as simple as a 3D version of a building as it contains a large amount of information pertaining to the building, extremely useful information. The information ranges from materials to logistics that can be used to analyse existing buildings for the purposes of renovation.

Some may be surprised to know that estimation can be conducted through the use of BIM software as well, so it is a form of estimation itself if you count the fact that it’s a feature of BIM. It is done through the mapping of the components of a 3D building model to materials and labour as well as equipment costs. 

There is a caveat with BIM’s accuracy in estimation as it depends upon the completeness of the 3D model and how accurate it is. This means that 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

We now arrive at construction estimation software. Construction estimation software as opposed to construction estimation done in more traditional or manual methods should enable builders to far more effectively estimate the costs of the project. It should also streamline and really push 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. 

With construction management software you should be able to reuse the previous costs from previous projects, ideally by saving and creating different estimation templates so when you start a new estimation you can simply reuse the most relevant template for your estimation. 

Having a platform that enables standardisation like this also allows other team members to participate in the estimation process and makes it more collaborative.

Furthermore, it should enable you to link price lists from different suppliers that you can save on the system and pre-fill fields as you create estimations to save you time further.

You should also be easily able to build building specifications as a part of your pre construction process, it should also allow you to preview your estimation in a professional manner before finalising it so that you can send it to the client and can get an overview of it and review it more thoroughly.

Takeoff Software

Construction takeoffs are another area to look at in determining the benefits of using a construction management software. Before talking about takeoff softwares we must first ask for clarity, what exactly is a construction takeoff? A takeoff is the outline of the costs for all the materials for a project, typically done prior to the actual estimation, but is technically a part of the estimation process as those materials costs can be used for the  accurate estimation of a project and overall an important and imperative part of the success of a construction project as well as knowing what needs to be ordered.

Construction takeoffs provide the costs of materials along with any other associated costs and are also paired with labour and storage costs as examples of other types of costs that are joined together eventually for a project’s estimation.

Seemingly construction takeoffs are a simple sounding process. It is anything but simple. It is actually a time consuming task that requires one to be quite proficient at the task at hand. One must be able to by hand measure a plan with a legend and figure out all the materials and items required for the project compiling a takeoff list. There are now softwares that can cater to the preparation of construction takeoffs known as take off softwares however this is generally included in high quality construction management softwares.

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. An instance of this is it will scale your uploaded building plans to the software and you can much more efficiently use the software measure to scale the different parts of the plan and compile your takeoff list which you can ideally add to your estimation costs.

These are just a few of the reasons why a construction management software is far more beneficial than traditional or manual methods. 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. Enquire here, to receive a demo of Wunderbuild.

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