Creating Accurate Square Foot Estimates

For any construction project, several estimates can be prepared during planning to ensure stakeholders have a clear understanding of the projected scope, cost and timeline. In general, initial estimates are intended to be created quickly and economically. As planning proceeds and the project nears kickoff, there comes a need for more accurate and more time intensive estimate types.

In a previous post, we discussed how conceptual estimates are typically prepared at the beginning of the planning phase to make crucial decisions quickly. These help project owners make high-level decisions, but conceptual estimates have an inherent limitation – the accuracy of the predicted cost. When the basics of a project are set and owners need a better idea of what their projects might cost, including how some details might affect the cost, preparing a square foot estimate will help.

What is a Square Foot Estimate?

In simple terms, square foot estimates use an historical cost per unit, which is one square foot, and multiply that cost by the total number of square feet a building is expected to be. This may sound just like a conceptual estimate, but there is more that goes into creating a square foot estimate. It also considers many details of the building – materials, fixtures, and finishes – that can influence the total cost, sometimes by a large margin. When changes are made, project owners can easily see how they affect the overall cost per square foot and how these cost changes scale with the project.

Read more about how different estimate types are used at various stages of project planning.

How Square Foot Estimates Better Inform Project Owners

We’ve established that a square foot estimate considers project details. But how does this help project owners?

When a Chambers, Arizona developer looked to one of Gordian’s engineers to help create a square foot estimate for a new apartment building, the engineer was able to quickly build an estimate of what the building might cost using RSMeans Data Online. The process of creating the initial estimate was as simple as selecting one of RSMO’s many pre-built square foot models and selecting the location and rough square footage. From there, he input details of the project, like how many apartments the building would include and how many bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms would be in each apartment. This information alone was enough to present a general project cost to the project’s stakeholders. But what happens when stakeholders want to make modifications?

The flexibility of using RSMeans Data Online when creating a square foot estimate was evident when the stakeholders asked the engineer how much adding an additional elevator would impact cost. The engineer was able to edit the estimate within the platform by simply increasing the number of elevator assemblies. RSMeans Data Online took care of all of the details, accounting for the entire elevator assembly and all associated costs of adding more elevators. From there, the engineer could quickly present the cost impact of the changes. With this information, the project’s decision makers were able to better assess whether or not installing additional elevators would be worth the additional cost.

See how RSMeans data can help you quickly and reliably estimate the costs of your projects with accurate, location-specific data.

Creating Estimates Backed by Trusted Data

The power of a square foot estimate, backed by powerful software, is in its flexibility. Estimators can change project details with as much granularity as the project calls for. With RSMeans Data Online, estimators can instantly see the impact that these changes make.

For any construction project, having more information sooner leads to better outcomes. And when decision makers need to see how different decisions might affect their bottom line, having accurate, localized cost data can give them the confidence to make hat call. That’s where RSMeans Data Online can help. With the power to access over 40 square foot models and accurate costs for more than 970 locations, estimators, engineers and other RSMeans Data Online users can make fast changes to square foot estimates and provide clients with options that maximize their budgets, exceed their functional expectations or both. For creating square foot estimates, where accuracy and flexibility are key, a powerful online platform like RSMeans Data Online enhances productivity.

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About Gordian

Gordian is the leader in facility and construction cost data, software and services for all phases of the building lifecycle. A pioneer of Job Order Contracting, Gordian’s solutions also include proprietary RSMeans data construction costs and Facility Intelligence Solutions. From planning to design, to procurement, construction and operations, Gordian’s solutions help clients maximize efficiency, optimize cost savings and increase building quality.