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Building Services Estimator

Developing a construction estimate requires reviewing bid documents and following a process to determine project costs. This includes adding a markup for profit and contingency.

Indirect field costs, transport costs, smaller types of equipment and temporary structures are also included in the overall cost of a project. In addition, contractors must pay for bonding and insurance.

Project Scope

In order to establish a budget for a construction project, a building services estimator must determine the scope of the work involved. This involves comparing project drawings and specifications to existing construction projects, and determining the costs associated with similar materials and quantities. Estimators must also consider the impact of site conditions and other variables that may affect construction operations. For large construction projects, an estimator might break down the work into multiple work packages, which allows specialty contractors to submit bids for specific aspects of the project.

The first step in estimating the scope of a project includes reviewing and verifying the Scope of Work. This document, along with the project plans and specs, provides estimators with a starting point for creating estimates. For a more accurate estimate, a site visit is also recommended. During this time, the estimator can take measurements and collaborate with the project team to assess potential cost implications of delivering the project in a given location.

Those who pursue careers as building service estimators must have strong math skills, and be proficient with estimating software. They should also have an understanding of a wide range of construction technologies, materials, and processes, as well as the ability to create and read drawings. A background in a technical field, such as civil engineering or heavy construction, is helpful. In addition, building service estimators must have good communication skills to interact with their colleagues and clients.


In addition to the necessary math and computer skills, you’ll need good knowledge of construction materials. Depending on the project, this could include wood, concrete, steel, bricks, aggregates or clay. The right mix of materials can make a building stronger, more cost effective and easier to maintain.

Estimators review a project’s scope documents along with the building plans and specifications to get a feel for its material needs. They also evaluate MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) requirements to see how they might impact the construction process. This helps them create a list of materials, called a quantity takeoff, that the contractor will need to complete the construction project.

The list of required materials is then broken down into work packages to be bid on by contractors. This is done to ensure that each contractor can accurately quote for a specific section of the project. For example, an estimator may create a work package that includes the materials and labor for rough-in plumbing. This will help to ensure that the contractor cannot be held responsible for costs that aren’t included in its ultimate bid.

A skilled cost estimator is able to track all the major and minor costs involved in a project. This requires a detailed approach to research and an ability to identify quality sources of information. It also requires the ability to follow industry norms for measuring units and consistently fill out costing-related documents, such as quantity surveys, in a way that makes them verifiable and easy to hand off to another estimator if necessary.


Using construction plans, specifications and other project details, estimators evaluate the cost of constructing a building. They consider materials, labour, equipment and other expenses. Building estimators also consider local factors such as weather and the availability of specific types of materials. They may even visit a job site to gain a more complete understanding of the project’s scope and requirements.

To create a bid estimate, a building services estimator starts by reviewing a contractor’s proposed scope of work and any applicable drawings. They also consider a project’s location and any underground work requirements. Once they understand the project, building estimators then prepare work packages to cover a project’s various material and labour needs. For example, one work package might include electrical and plumbing requirements, while another may focus on window installation. By carefully separating the various components of a project, a building services estimator ensures that no unaccounted costs are passed onto contractors at later stages of the process.

A successful bid estimate requires a building services estimator to accurately account for all direct field costs, including equipment rates and labor hours. They must also consider indirect field costs, such as the rate for utilities and a temporary site office. For some projects, a building services estimator might need to reach out to equipment vendors to learn pricing for renting or purchasing specific equipment. They might also take into account any equipment maintenance or depreciation costs.


Cost estimators must understand the labor required to perform various tasks associated with building construction. They typically use a project’s scope of work, blueprints and contract bid information to develop accurate estimates. They also access current labor costs, material prices and wage scales.

Estimators often work hand in hand with construction designers. They review the designs and note any aspects that may increase project costs, such as specialized materials or complex functionality. They must also be able to communicate effectively with both managers and employees throughout the process.

A key task involves assembling work packages that contain the materials and labor necessary for each aspect of a project. For example, a work package might include rough-in plumbing or window installation. This ensures that no element of the project is overlooked and that no contractors are bidding too low, which could be costly later in the construction phase.

In addition to analyzing proposals, blueprints and contracts, a building services estimator often must visit a construction site to evaluate the work environment. During these visits, the estimator compares the current and predicted market conditions with proposed and finalized construction documents. They also examine the construction progress to recognize any potential costs and ensure that the contractor is meeting project deadlines. They must also be able to make valuation appraisals and recognize errors and discrepancies in plans and specifications.