More than 200 responses were received from last month's estimating survey, which closed on February 3. The goal of the survey was three fold:
- Learn about the use of spreadsheet software and estimating application
- Become familiar with best practices in estimating, and
- Understand the role of risk management practices in pricing projects.
In this first article, we summarize the results of our survey. A second installment will compile the individual responses and report on the best practices that have been provided by our readers.
A full fifty percent of respondents are construction contractors. The remaining breakdown is comprised of consultants (15%), construction managers (10%), private owners (7%), public owners (4%), architect/engineers (6%) and other (8%). Ninety-five percent of respondents have been in the construction industry more than 5 years. Fifty percent of respondents said they prepare takeoffs and detailed estimates, with the remaining group supervising an estimating department (16%), reviewing estimates (26%), perform take-offs only (2%) and other (7%).
Methods for Preparing Estimates and Source of Cost/Pricing Data
By far, over 80% of respondents use a computer to prepare their estimates. Seventeen percent said they still prepare an estimate manually, with 46% using a spreadsheet and 31% using an estimating program. Two percent use a tablet and the remaining 4% claimed other. No one reported using a smartphone for preparing estimates.
For source of pricing data, historical cost data was clearly the preferred method, as would be expected, with 87% stating it was used often or exclusively. Estimating guides, whether online or printed, were used exclusively or often less than 23% of the time, but occasionally up to 50% of the time. Forty-five percent of respondents also used Internet searches to find actual prices.
Estimating Method Satisfaction Ratings
Satisfaction levels is running in the range of 51%-66% of respondents “mostly” or “completely” satisfied with their takeoff methods, estimating software or spreadsheets, and methods of computing material, labor and support costs. Another 28%-40% are “somewhat” satisfied, with a good 7%-14% of respondents not satisfied.
Advanced Takeoff and Estimating Methods
We found it very interesting that more respondents use automated take-off devices for online drawings (29%) than for paper drawings (22%). We found 10% using building information modeling (BIM) for “5D” estimating. Overwhelmingly, 55% reported an interest in learning more about these topics. Additionally, 11% reported using risk analysis software and 14% reported reliance on aerial photography for obtaining data on civil work.
Risk Analysis Processes, Methods and Software
55% of respondents said they use, are familiar with, or otherwise interested in risk-analysis processes, methods and/or software. Of this group, less than 30% currently use risk-identification methods, risk-analysis methods or software, or otherwise price risk. But overwhelmingly, 70% want to learn more about these topics.
Based on satisfaction levels, room for improvement exists. In future surveys, we will attempt to learn more details about the issues that are leaving users less than satisfied. The good news is that we received hundreds of suggestions for best practices. After we have compiled these suggestions into meaningful categories, we’ll report back in the second installment of this Estimating Survey report. We are also heartened by the high level of interest shown in learning more about advanced estimating methods and about risk analysis.