Takeoff and Estimating for Design-Build Contractors

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1 Takeoff and Estimating for Design-Build Contractors Design-build contractors specialize in turnkey projects that vary from one-of-a-kind office buildings to custom residential properties. Each project requires careful coordination and attention to detail, and this includes everything from design and engineering, budgeting and estimating, arranging sub-contractors, purchasing the right materials at the right time, and overseeing the project all the way through to completion. The Challenge: Manage the Details of an Art and a Science A design-build project involves intimate knowledge of all aspects of design from architectural to engineering; and all construction trades from excavation to trim carpentry. When it comes to estimating, the design-build process also requires intimate knowledge and coordination of these disciplines to create a comprehensive estimate. Design-build estimating is both an art and a science. The success of a design-build project begins with a thorough and accurate estimate that includes all trades involved in the build, corresponding labor productivity, materials pricing, and more. Developing such an allencompassing estimate requires attention to detail. It requires an 1

2 understanding of quantities and unit costs, labor rates, an ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of professionals, and the ability to manage a dynamic design and estimating process. manual processes are insufficient & costly Prior to digital technologies, the tools used for takeoff and estimating consisted of the rolling linear scale, colored pencils, highlighters, ledger pads, and a calculator. As personal computers became common in business, estimators replaced their calculators and ledgers with electronic spreadsheets and complex formulas. Some estimators, however, still use the old school tools to manually perform material takeoffs and to generate educated cost guesstimates that slowly make their way into formal estimates....manual processes are both TIME AND LABOR INTENSIVE and prone to inaccuracies. These manual processes are both time and labor intensive and prone to inaccuracies. Estimators spend too many hours meticulously combing through numerous printed plans to tabulate product counts. Further complicating the process is the inclusion of changes and requests for alternatives during both design and build, as well as the inevitable deviations from the original architectural design intent where the actual design and implementation plans of the trades deviate. It takes significant time and skill to determine precise material values due to changes, discrepancies, and unique conditions. Detecting, managing, and reconciling conflicts are complicated and time consuming tasks. If performing these tasks manually, the estimator must sift through marked-up plans and previous estimates to work up a change or develop an alternative and incorporate it into the overall project budget. Even small changes create a time burden that adds to the cost of estimating projects and takes away from the project profit margin. Most contractors invest considerable time and money in their takeoff and estimating processes with the goal of winning more work. They can respond to design changes in less time and with greater confidence when they use digital takeoff and estimating applications. And of course, better estimates allow design-build contractors to know what to charge clients to assure profit while keeping costs down for the project owner. digital takeoff & estimating improve productivity A design-builder s takeoff and estimating tools should be both fast and easy to use. Digital takeoff applications allow knowledgeable 2

3 estimators to measure lengths, areas, and volumes; count quantities; and select system components from digital plans viewed on a computer screen. As counts and measurements are taken with the click of a mouse, the onscreen plan is highlighted to show exactly what has been processed....proficient with these automated tools... PRECISE, DETAILED ESTIMATES...less time... The estimator applies conditions such as wall type, height, length, window and door cutouts, ceiling grid, and finish type. Rather than tabulating the takeoffs on a ledger or spreadsheet, the estimator lets the application track and tally all the material needs. Digital estimating applications apply current material, labor, mark-up, and other costs to the takeoff data to estimate project costs. An important element of creating an accurate estimate is being able to break a project down into smaller pieces and roll them up again into an overall project estimate; for example, creating estimates by trade, and by floors or rooms. From start to finish, an estimator who is proficient with these automated tools develops more precise, detailed estimates in much less time compared to manual methods. An automated approach to takeoff and estimation also enables quick historical recall from prior jobs as well as efficient change order processing. Such tools also allow what if adjustments where an estimator can quickly determine the effects of changes or alternatives to the project. Having this ability allows the estimator to understand the cost impact of ad hoc client requests and design decisions. Today s digital takeoff and estimating software suites have a high degree of integration so that takeoff data flows right into cost estimates and ultimately into accounting systems. Design-build contractors find the most value in full-featured takeoff and estimating solutions that simplify and accelerate their estimation development process. reduce redundancy & increase efficiencies Digital takeoff and estimating applications quickly pay for themselves in several ways first, by decreasing the time needed to create estimates; second, by eliminating the need to print, handle, and store bulky paper-based plans and other documents; and third, by easing the estimator s analysis of the building and grouping objects into appropriate digital takeoff and estimating applications QUICKLY PAY FOR THEMSELVES... 3

4 assemblies for streamlined quantity measurement and labor productivity alignment. Moreover, a contractor can save additional time after preinspection when reviewing the initial designs and bids and comparing them to the actual MEP designs and implementation. Most importantly, these applications assist in the accurate translation of specialty system design requirements into an equally accurate takeoff and estimate for all project phases, from excavation through interior finishing....estimating software...import complete and current cost lists from MULTIPLE SOURCES... Estimators can maintain and manage a library of common assemblies and designs. These assemblies are generally combinations of materials, quantities, costs, and labor that together form a unit of activity. These common assemblies can be instantly recalled and reused among projects to save time. Builtin cost databases that are specific to unique architectural designs, such as ceilings and walls, are another timesaver designed to reduce errors and develop a more accurate bid. In addition, a good estimating software package allows an estimator to import complete and current cost lists from multiple sources including vendors and subcontractors. With integrated takeoff and estimating solutions, contractors avoid spending significant time as designs change by simply overlaying any new plans over the original plans to identify and highlight the differences, potential conflicts, and then perform a new takeoff. The system applies the changes to the estimate, all with a few clicks of a mouse. A knowledgeable estimator uses the digital takeoff and estimating tools to specify what assemblies and labor are required to build-out a specific portion of a project, as well as how many assemblies are required based on the measures identified during the takeoff process. Once the materials and labor are determined, prices and rates are applied, and a markup is calculated....contractors can generate WORKFLOWS to reflect the phases of a project. Furthermore, contractors can generate project phase/segment views of an estimate to provide individual pahse cost analysis. This is a huge benefit to project managers by having a predefined path (workflow), showing labor and material breakdowns. It also 4

5 allows project managers to predict and schedule resources including sub-contractors, material lists and lead times, just-in-time material deliveries, and overall labor requirements. With such segmented and detailed information, project managers have greater insight into when specific sub-contractors are needed and can identify schedule conflicts or shortfalls before they occur. better ways to manage costs Estimating programs generate reports that help the design-build teams manage labor and material costs. There are reports to manage material inventories and purchases and to plan man-hours and costs for a variety of labor categories and tasks. design-build contractors...can T IMAGINE doing business without these tools. Depending on the reporting capabilities, labor is broken down into sub-categories for site labor, installation labor, and separate values for labor which can include tasks like handling, finishing, taping, caulking, insulating, etc. Furthermore, material requirements report what is needed, and by when, in order to facilitate just-in-time purchasing. The detailed information managed by these solutions also helps project cash flow needs. What s more, these applications export costing information to accounting systems, providing contractors with another way to save time and reduce input errors. the bottom line: a better way to conduct business Design-build contractors that have already adopted digital takeoff and estimating applications can t imagine doing business without these tools. These programs help the business owners: Save Time and Money Reduce the cost of shipping and printing plans. Spend far less time doing takeoffs and estimating costs for each bid. Reduce Costly Mistakes Eliminate manual entry errors and see visually on the screen that everything is counted. Decrease the likelihood of misinterpreting designs and the related inspection problems such as rework and penalties. Improve Collaboration Get everyone on the project on the same page for how to estimate and build the job. Better Manage Project Risks Keep track of minute project details and costs, from estimation through build, to minimize cost overruns. conclusion Successful design-build estimating is both an art and a science that requires an understanding of 5

6 quantities and unit costs, labor analysis, an ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of professionals, and manage a series of rapid and dynamic project processes. A design-build contractor s success begins with expertise, attention to detail, and hard work, and continues with the ability to takeoff and estimate projects in a timely and accurate manner. These turnkey contractors require an integrated takeoff and estimating solution which provides consistency in approach and eliminates the need for manual data entry points. Integrated takeoff and estimating solutions provide the capability to develop project cost information with more accuracy throughout the entire bid to build cycle. On Center Software, Inc., is a privately held company providing software and training to construction industry professionals for over 24 years. Located in The Woodlands, Texas, the company s mission is to transform the takeoff, estimating, and labor-tracking experience with comprehensive software solutions that turn winning bids into profitable projects. On Center Software solutions include On- Screen Takeoff, Quick Bid, and Digital Production Control. Customers in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa, and 60 other countries around the world leverage On Center Software s internationally recognized solutions. For more information about On Center Software, call or visit 12R

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