Accurate, timely, and transparent cost estimating is critical to the success of any renovation, repair, sustainability, or new construction project. While most construction cost estimators continue to rely primarily upon hardcopy documents and electronic spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel, many are beginning to leverage electronic cost books and associated “calculator” software tools. Both of these approaches have merit and are well suited for certain types of users.
Growing numbers of cost estimators, however, have the need to work with multiple projects and multiple estimates simultaneously, securely share information on active projects, localized cost information, as well as easily locate and reuse historical data.
These Owners, Contractors, and AEs are moving to advanced cost estimating and management systems. They are discovering that significantly higher productivity can be gained (50%+). Furthermore, the collaborative aspects of these advanced cost estimating and project management software systems are aligned with integrated project delivery methods and construction sector movement toward Building Information Modelling (BIM).
This paper addresses each of these primary approaches to construction cost estimating and discusses their application. For clarity, products are referenced within each category as follows: (1) Spreadsheets – Microsoft Excel, (2) Electronic Cost Books/Calculator – RSMeans CostWorks, and (3) Cost Estimating and Project Management Software – e4Clicks Project Estimator.
Over the past forty plus years, there have been many initiatives to improve cost estimating to facilitate the delivery of construction projects on time and on budget. Owners, contractors, and AEs now have multiple methods to select from based upon their needs.
Spreadsheets were a major improvement in the 1980s, followed by formal processes for collecting and harnessing historical information to more accurately project and control costs.
Over the past decade, a powerful new capability has been added, collaborative cost estimating and project management software. The evolution of transparent and collaborative cost estimating and project management software mitigates the time wasting, unproductive aspects of creating estimates one at a time from scratch. Additional benefits include the reduction of data input and formulae errors, as well as costly ‘errors of omission’, common with ‘ad hoc’ spreadsheet-centric approaches.
The application of cloud computing to cost estimating and project delivery and management software and the subsequent integration with Building Information Modelling. The ability to produce accurate cost estimates and control costs throughout a buildings life-cycle will be greatly enhanced. Another breed of cost estimating and project management software, Adaptive Project Delivery (APD) will also evolve. But all this is for another story.