A career as a building services estimator can be an excellent springboard into construction management and other senior roles within the industry. Typical job skills include attention to detail and organizational skills.
Estimators also need to be familiar with the various types of construction methods. They should be able to weigh the pros and cons of each.
Quantity takeoffs are an essential step in the pre-construction phase of a project. They require a lot of math, and mistakes here can cause significant delays. It’s important to get this step right, as it can affect the overall cost estimation, timeline, budget, and daily workflow of a construction project. There are different approaches to quantity takeoffs, including manual and digital. While both methods have advantages and disadvantages, digital takeoffs are generally faster and more accurate. However, they may not be as precise as a manual estimate.
A quality quantity takeoff requires a team with experience in reading blueprints and understanding the types of materials that will be required for a particular project. Estimators must also be able to calculate the square footage of a project’s footprint and take measurements from blueprint drawings. This can be done using software that will provide the estimator with a list of all of the necessary materials. It’s important for estimators to know how to read various types of blueprints, such as building plans, electrical and plumbing schematics, and civil engineering drawings. This is because these types of blueprints often contain different symbols and notes that can indicate what type of material is required for a certain job.
The accuracy of a quantity takeoff is also important, especially for materials that are expensive or have long delivery times. If a contractor overestimates the quantity of these materials, it can result in major delays and increased costs on a project. Conversely, if the estimator underestimates the quantity of materials that have low prices and short delivery times, it can reduce project costs and lead to a better profit margin.
Besides calculating the quantities of different materials needed for a project, a quantity takeoff can also help estimate other inputs like skilled labor and equipment hours. This helps estimate the total cost of a project and ensures that it stays within budget. It can even assist with negotiating prices during bidding for the construction project.
The most common method for performing a quantity takeoff is using a digital tool. This method is a quick and easy way to create an estimate for a project without having to manually calculate each measurement. A digital tool will scan the blueprint and analyze it to provide a detailed list of all the materials that are needed for the project. It will also include information about the dimensions of each material, and it can even determine if there are any obstructions in the site. This saves estimators a lot of time and effort. It’s also a good idea for estimators to visit the construction site before starting the estimate process. This will allow them to be more familiar with the drawings and blueprints, and it can also help them to avoid omitting materials from their estimates.
Some contractors take on the responsibility for preparing cost estimates in addition to their primary job duties. Often, these projects are for public works or government agencies. For these types of jobs, bidding is heavily regulated to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best possible deal and that no corruption occurs. Procurement for these projects is usually conducted using traditional sealed bidding, which involves a long submission process and extensive bid documents.
Many of these documents include the contractor’s previous work history, including pricing on similar projects. This information is analyzed by the estimator to determine whether the contractor has the experience and capacity to complete the project as requested. Some projects may also require the contractor to submit a statement of work, which includes a detailed description of all tasks and deliverables associated with the project.
Typically, the estimator will create several levels of estimates based on a variety of sources and methodologies. Commercial publications that provide labor and material costs serve as a major source of this data. Additionally, a building services estimator will use a bill of quantities, which is a list of the construction elements included in the project design, to calculate direct costs of each component. These costs will then be multiplied by the contractor’s labor rates to calculate a general estimate of the overall construction cost.
Once a general estimate is determined, the building services estimator will prepare a bidding document for each subcontractor. This document will contain the scope of work, project schedule, deadlines, special considerations and other project details. The document will also include the subcontractor’s price and a proposal of their terms and conditions. The building services estimator will then review and compare each proposal to the original estimate. The estimate that best meets the project requirements will be awarded the contract.
Managing the bidding process can be a time-consuming and complex task for building services estimators, especially when multiple projects are under way simultaneously. To streamline this task, many construction professionals use specialized software that manages bids and other important documents. These applications can reduce the amount of manual paperwork and keep all relevant information easily accessible to the entire team.
A building services estimator must be able to prepare cost estimates that meet the needs of a client. These estimates are based on various factors, including the building materials, labor costs and equipment needed to complete the construction project. In addition, estimators need to consider indirect costs like transportation and smaller types of equipment and may include a profit margin for themselves or their subcontractors.
Estimators also need to understand the factors that can influence material and labor costs, such as inflation, market conditions, supply and demand for specific materials and the local economy. As a result, an estimate for a construction project in New York City can differ from an estimate for the same work completed in Los Angeles. To compensate for these differences, an estimator should adjust any historical data used to calculate a cost estimate for a specific construction project to reflect current market trends.
The process of preparing an estimate starts with the quantity takeoff, which gives line-by-line costs for the types and amounts of materials and equipment needed to build a structure. This information is then used to create a preliminary estimate, which can be revised as the design progresses. The final version of the estimate is the bid estimate, which is submitted to the customer in a bidding process.
Preparing estimates requires good math skills and the ability to read technical documents, including blueprints and plans, as well as geotechnical reports and soil analyses. An estimator should also be familiar with the local markets for construction materials and be able to select appropriate materials based on location, such as wood in regions near lumber mills.
As the lead person for estimating construction projects, the building services estimator works closely with other construction professionals, including architects and engineers. He or she must be able to ask questions and communicate clearly to avoid misinterpreting designs or overlooking important details that could impact costs. Moreover, an estimator should have the ability to review construction drawings and contracts.
Finally, a good building services estimator will be able to work under tight deadlines and have excellent organizational skills. Depending on the size of an organization, a construction estimator can either work as part of a team or on his or her own. If working on a contract basis, an estimator will often need to travel to construction sites and meet with clients.
A key part of project management is monitoring costs during the design, construction and operations phases to ensure that projects meet both schedule and budgetary goals. Estimators use Earned Value Analysis to keep costs in line with projections and to identify issues as they arise. This process requires close coordination with the design team to avoid costly surprises or delay.
Contractors rely on accurate estimates to ensure that their bids will cover all direct project costs and allow for an appropriate profit margin and contingency. A contractor that underestimates the cost of a job may not be able to compete with other bidders and will likely need to cut into its own profit margin or lose money on the project.
Cost estimating begins with review of bid documents. This review covers everything from the work requirements to the cost of all required materials and equipment, including an assessment of the project’s unique needs. For example, if the project is designed to be eco-friendly, the estimator will need to evaluate material needs and determine the cost of any nonstandard equipment needed.
Next, the estimator evaluates the structural requirements. This includes reviewing structural drawings and evaluating the amount of concrete, steel and other materials needed for the structure. In addition, the estimator will assess mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) requirements. The cost estimator will also need to consider the types of materials and equipment that are used in the construction process, such as specialized materials for seismic or wind load requirements, and materials required for a tenant improvement build-out.
Once the initial estimates are developed, the estimator will prepare intermediate estimates during the design development phase to maintain accountability for the initial budget projections and as a means of evaluating competing alternative construction assemblies, systems and materials. This estimating method is commonly employed during the planning and preliminary design phases, when take-off measurements are not yet available, and typically utilizes a Uniformat system WBS (Work Breakdown Structure).
During this phase, the estimator should also update a risk assessment and add a contingency factor to the estimate. The contingency factor reflects the percentage of the total estimated cost that is set aside for possible overruns or waste, and should be based on the results of the risk assessment. In addition, the estimator should also include any overhead costs associated with operating a construction company. These costs include insurance and bonding, which are necessary to mitigate risks for the owner and contractor and must be added to all estimates.