Efficiencies in Construction Estimating: 4 Critical Elements

Never underestimate the importance of efficient preconstruction. Long before you break ground or gas up the heavy machinery, one of the most challenging parts of the construction process has already been completed: an accurate and detailed project estimate. That’s because the first time you “build” the project is when you build the estimate.

Prior to a new construction build or renovation, cost estimates are used to evaluate information for facility or business owners, contractors, architects, engineers and project managers. These stakeholders rely on the cost estimate to determine project feasibility, funding, logistics and other required resources. Therefore, a project’s success is in direct correlation to the thoroughness of its estimate. Inefficiencies in construction estimating can result in budget overruns, delays throughout the duration of the construction project and even loss of work. Here’s the good news: These inefficiencies are avoidable.

Formula for Efficient Cost Estimating

The Venn diagram of construction cost estimating essentially has three circles:

  • Cost of the project after all calculations and markups are totaled
  • Accuracy throughout the construction process
  • Speed when delivering an estimate

The sweet spot of efficient estimating is in the convergence of these three factors, the spot in the Venn diagram where they all overlap. To be successful and achieve an accurate construction cost estimate quickly, you’ll need to combine your expertise with powerful industry tools. Here are four critical elements to make sure you have optimal efficiency in your construction estimating and preconstruction process.

1. Preconstruction Plan 

Capturing the Scope of Work is perhaps the most important step in the preconstruction process. Estimators must visit the job site, gather input from vendors, study drawings and plans and more to properly scope construction. Certified Estimating Professional Rory Woolsey often says that many estimators make the mistake of stopping at AE Scope, the Scope of Work defined by an architect and an engineer via plans and specs. Context Scope and Construction Process Scope must be included for a complete and accurate project estimate.

Context Scope includes details about where the build is located, such as building age, time constraints, the weather, labor availability and more. An accurate Context Scope represents the real-world circumstances surrounding the build.

2. Human Expertise

Now that we have the what and the where, Construction Process Scope answers how the project will be built. Materials do not walk themselves to the job site. Planning how they will get there and what the team will need to use the materials once they are on-site is crucial. This forces estimators to consider the equipment and labor necessary to execute the work in the project environment.

Capturing AE, Context and Process Scope will result in efficient, seamless project execution. Success depends on the details. We have access to more data now than ever before, but there is still no substitute for old-fashioned common sense. Capable cost estimators can leverage the power and speed of cost estimating software and apply their know-how to confirm or improve the results.

3. Construction Estimating Software

Construction estimating software streamlines a complex process with order and convenience to help avoid human error. The functionality and accessibility provided by software solutions accelerates a large part of a cost estimator’s work.

Construction estimating software delivers efficiency and efficiency creates success. Contractors and architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) firms can improve internal project management skills and develop good habits that get high-quality estimates out the door quickly.

4. Trusted Cost Data

Every construction estimate should be powered by scores of cost information. Estimators and contractors should use every data source available to them—their own old estimates, subcontractor quotes, vendor quotes and, of course, published cost information. Those who prefer a more manual process can verify and validate the accuracy of their in-house costs using construction cost books or more efficient online software. These “gut checks” ensure engineers and estimators can be confident in every estimate.

Benefits of RSMeans Data Online

RSMeans Data, North America’s leading construction cost database, contains material, labor and equipment costs that can be localized to more than 970 locations for accuracy. Having a trusted cost database helps users fill in their knowledge gaps when costing new jobs or projects in new markets. Instead of working the phones or digging through cost books to find the City Cost Index, engineers and estimators can enter the project zip code and find local costs.

Estimating software stays up-to-date with cost fluctuations, automatically updating so every estimate reflects real-world market conditions. RSMeans Data Online allows you to estimate commercial construction cost per square foot. With the square foot estimate builder, you can estimate large-scale projects in multiple locations across the country. Our estimating software also enables you to access material, labor and equipment costs for each line item and adjust quantities as needed. An estimating software makes accurate prices instantly available, saving precious time and unnecessary frustration.

Stay in the Green with Estimating Efficiencies

Think of construction estimating like golf. A badly executed golf swing, even just a degree or two off the mark, will land the ball far from the hole and maybe even out of the green. You definitely want to be in the green, so don’t doom your project with a poorly planned estimate. Rushing an estimate without giving it the respect it deserves can lead to crisis mode as the job unfolds. Luckily, efficiencies created by data, software and expertise help alleviate the time it takes to put in the effort up-front.

Find out more about creating estimating efficiency with RSMeans Data Online.

About Gordian

Gordian is the leading provider of Building Intelligence™ Solutions, delivering unrivaled insights, robust technology and expert services to fuel customers’ success through all phases of the building lifecycle. Gordian created Job Order Contracting (JOC) and the industry-standard RSMeans Data. We empower organizations to optimize capital investments, improve project performance and minimize long-term operating expenses.