Estimating is the core function of all construction projects. Owners start with conceptual estimates when a project is first proposed. These estimates get refined as the project develops and ultimately, contractors and subcontractors will prepare detailed take-offs and estimates to prepare a bid or establish a budget. Before microcomputers came around in the 1980s, estimating was primarily a manual function, aided by the use of handheld or desktop calculators. Today, a significant amount of estimating is automated, even to the point where they can be performed on smartphones.
There are three general elements to an estimate: 1) the direct cost of the installed materials, including labor; 2) indirect, or support costs, such as scaffolding, crane usage, testing, inspection and punch lists; and 3) markups, such as overhead, profit and contingency, or risks. Frequently, particularly for small projects and for change orders, the indirect costs are included as part of overhead.
In the upcoming issues of ConstructionPro Week, we will be covering estimating-related topics and are interested in hearing your feedback, including learning about best practices, challenges and what our readers see as future directions in construction estimating. We would like to start this dialogue by inviting you to take our quick, five-minute survey by clicking here.