NIBS – National Institute of Building Sciences: Another Government Failure or a Valuable Resource?

I just read the National Institute for Sciences – NIBS – Annual Report.   NIBS is chartered to be “An Authoritative Source of Innovative Solutions for the Built Environment”.  As such, I assume NIBS to be national leader, if not a world leader, with respect to championing the efficient life-cycle management of facilities and other physical infrastructure.

Also, one might expect that all Federal Agencies should be executing on well-defined programs to significantly improve all aspects of design, project delivery methods, construction, operation, and disposal of the built environment.   After all, physical infrastructure is directly linked to our economic and environmental wellbeing.   Lastly, efficient management of the built environment is not “rocket science”, with well documented techniques abundant in literature, case studies, etc.

The fact that virtually not a single Federal Agencies has a definitive Department or Agency-wide best management practice approach for their physical infrastructure portfolio is, however, more than disturbing.

Efficient Management of the Build Environment – Check List

  • Organizational support and awareness – Top down and bottom up
  • Collaborative, LEAN project delivery methods (IPD – Integrated Project Delivery for major new construction, JOC – Job Order Contracting for repair, renovation, sustainability, and minor new construction)
  • Focus upon life-cycle costs versus first costs
  • A robust Ontology including standardized cost data
  • Adoption of cloud computing and associate integration of all life-cycle management domains (capital planning, construction delivery, cost estimating, maintenance management, space management, building automation, geographical information).
  • Quantitative metrics
  • Full transparency
  • Shared risk/reward for Owners, AEs, Contractors, etc.

While the charter of both NIBS, Capitol Hill members, and all Federal Real Property Owners is clear, are they taking their responsibility as stewards of the built environment seriously?

You tell me?

Construction Productivity - US Declinejob order contracting

Construction Productivity Abysmal and Owners Failing in their Stewardship Role

  • Technology is an enabler, but in itself incapable of truly impacting construction productivity… AND we are software developers!

    The key to construction productivity improvement lies within collaboration, standardized information, metrics, viable strategy, and continuous improvement… basically LEAN business process.

    That said, proven LEAN business process for construction have existed for decades… IPD – integrated project delivery for major new construction, and JOC – job order contracting for renovation, repair, sustainability and minor new construction… being notable examples. Supporting technology has been in place for similar time periods.

    Until Owners take responsibility for the built environment, significant construction productivity gain will remain impossible. Leadership and knowledge with respect to life-cycle management of the built environment is visibly lacking across most public and private sectors. We are well beyond time for change and the environmental/economic clock continues to click on.

    Construction Productivtiy

    Job Order Contracting / Integrated Project Delivery

    Construction Productivity - US DeclineJob Order Contracting - LEAN ConstructionJOC Paper

Construction Productivity Goals 2025 – UK versus US – Improving Construction Productivity

I submit that a 50% improvement in construction project delivery is possible in twelve months, let alone 2025.

Efficient project delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery – IPD for major new construction, and Job Order Contracting – JOC for renovation, repair, sustainability, and minor new construction, among others, are proven and have been practiced effectively for decades.  Both construction delivery methods drive collaboration and transparency (the two keys to productivity improvement), leverage well defined best management practices and processes, and have supporting technology is readily available.

So, what is stopping an major improvement in construction productivity?

  1. Lack of education,
  2. Cultural blockades set up by AEC firms,and
  3. The failure of both Owners and Governments to accept responsibility and stewardship with respect to the life-cycle management of the built environment.
Job Order Contracting / Integrated Project Delivery

Job Order Contracting / Integrated Project Delivery


To learn more:

Center for JOC Excellence –

Article – Saving Time and Money…

Additional Publications

Saving Time And Money On The Estimation Process – Massachusetts Contractors Academy

Expert Interview with Peter Cholakis Of 4Clicks On Saving Time And Money On The Estimation Process

Saving time and moneyEstimation is an important aspect of the bidding process. It allows your company to pitch its best ideas for the best possible costs, helping your company to stand out from the competition – if it’s a good estimation.

As the world gets increasingly more complicated with more things to keep track of by less people, organization and optimization are mandatory for every aspect of business, especially the estimate.

4Clicks provides advanced solutions for the construction industry, most notably with the e4Clicks software which streamlines the estimation process. e4Clicks may be “made by and for conractors,” but it’s good enough for the Department of Defense.

4Clicks’ Peter Cholakis took a moment to tell us about the software and the estimation process in general, as well as share some advice on how to help your estimate stand out.

Can you introduce us to 4Clicks? Where are you based out of, and what inspired you to start the company initially?

The best way to describe 4Clicks is the following client quote from a Government Owner: “Your company provides an unparalleled level of service and commitment. We’re having lots of great discussions between our office (base CE) and our 2 SABER contractors. My knowledge has at least doubled after sitting through today’s class.”

4Clicks provides premier construction cost estimating and project management software, training, and support for multiple construction delivery methods such as JOC, SABER, IDIQ, MATOC, SATOC, MACC, BOS, etc. And the best representation of RSMeans Cost Data available.

Michael Brown was inspired to start the company while working on one of the USAF’s first SABER projects (SABER is the USAF’s implementation of the Job Order Contracting construction delivery method) and thought to himself, “as a plumber with bad handwriting, there has to be a better way for me to estimate and manage all these construction projects.”

We are based in Cheyenne, Wyoming; however, members of our team are located in Boston, Southern California, Dallas, and Colorado Springs.

Many of your employees have a background in cost estimation and construction. Can you talk a bit about how that experience plays into 4Clicks design and software?

Virtually all of managers have backgrounds in construction and life-cycle management of the built environment. We have served as engineers, cost estimators, project managers, and/or facility software/process management innovators. My background, for example, includes facility life-cycle planning and capital planning as a former member of VFA Inc.’s initial management team, and also experience as a Senior Consultant for RSMeans Company Inc. Michael Brown served in the USAF and also worked for one of the most successful contractors serving the federal government. Every one of us has been lucky to have the incredible experience of working with the largest facility portfolio owners and service provides across the public and private sector, as well as contractors and AEs of all sizes.

One of your most popular tools for contractors is the e4Clicks. Can you introduce us to that program a bit and tell us what makes it so popular with the contractors?

You really need to ask our clients! But from what I have heard, it’s the ability to create a detailed, accurate RSMeans or IDIQ-based line item estimate in a fraction of the time it took them without 4Clicks, as well as the ability to reuse past estimates and share information with owners.

For example, there is no other product available today that builds out individual line item modifiers directly under the parent line time. Our RSMeans dataset holds well over 400,000 line items versus the 80,000+ available from any other source, including RSMeans. These modifiers provide visibility into the true cost for renovation, repair, and maintenance work, which make up 30% of any estimate on average; and they are critical to owners, contractors, AEs, and oversight Groups. Having this information, and the ability to rapidly find and use it, is critical.

That said, we are about to formally introduce Ceasel, our cloud estimating program. Ceasel is truly unique. It has one patent and two more patents pending. It is in use by West Point as we speak for their current JOC. Just FYI, West Point had the first JOC in the U.S.

Can you give an example of where 400,000 RSMeans line items would be called for? And how can advanced searching be integral to keeping a project, or many projects, organized for maximum efficiency?

Advanced search engine capability is key to locating exactly what component, labor, and material is required for a job. Let’s look at putting new carpet in an office. The typically available RSMeans Cost Data has the cost for a roll of carpet. Our database has the line item modifiers required for the additional costs of not using a full roll of carpet, working an area under a certain size, using borders and patterns (more labor and waste), etc. Errors and omissions are mitigated, and all required items are presented to the estimator.

e4Clicks also can produce updated estimates with localized cost information. Where do you look for that kind of information, and what kind of leg up does it give on the competition? How much time and money might a solo contractor or company save by having this information available in one place and automatically available?

Using the RSMeans Construction Cost Index, CCI, which is available at the ZIP code level, line item costs can be localized. Users can apply a general average CCI, or even apply separate CCI factors for labor, equipment, and materials. As we all know, price can fluctuate based upon demand, materials shortages, and other global/local events. We provide updated CCIs five times a year to our clients, which results in a better reflection actual costs. The ability to re-price estimates saves hours, days, or weeks of man-hours based upon the size of the estimate.

You’ve also talked about how e4Clicks gives a competitive advantage against other contractors bidding on the same project. How do you achieve this? And how important is it to be as competitive as possible in today’s business climate?

4Clicks provides several competitive advantages. 4Clicks users can create a more detailed and more transparent RSMeans line item estimate and do so faster. With our reporting capabilities and ability to directly populate government forms, owners can better understand estimates created in 4Clicks software.

e4Clicks features Job Order Contracting, which you wrote a blue paper on recently. Can you talk a bit about what JOC is and the part it’s playing in staying competitive in today’s contracting world?

JOC is critical to improving construction productivity with respect to renovation, repair, sustainability, and maintenance projects. It is a collaborative construction delivery method that is proven to enable owners and contractors to complete more construction projects on-time and on-budget. It is a form of integrated project delivery.

As most of us know, the construction sector has a record of poor productivity vs. all other sectors. This is largely due to design-bid-build and low bid practices that pit owners against contractors and AEs. Furthermore, JOC provides greater cost visibility. Most owners currently have little ability to measure and monitor costs. You simply can’t manage what you don’t measure.

You’ve got a section for Client Success Stories on your website. What have been a few of your favorite testimonials, and why?

My favorites reference contractors that have grown their businesses, owners that have completed more jobs on-time and on-budget that ever before, and all users who have improved their abilities. I also love it when owner and contractor relationships thrive in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust! At the end of the day, we exist to serve our clients; so it’s great to see that we are doing just that! The fact that we are providing true value to owners, contractors, and AEs is very satisfying, and we can only hope to continue to do so.

“Without a doubt, e4Clicks is the most capable estimating program on the market. It allows the user(s) maximum functionality for a diverse set of contract/project types in every discipline. While there is work involved in learning how to use the program, it’s quickly revealed that doing so opens up a level of functionality unmatched by competing programs. The ability to tap previous estimates and historical data has a compounding effect in the efficiency and value of the software. Quite simply, the more you use it, the more value you discover.” – Ryan Wiser, Director of Construction at KATMAI

“This company produces one of the best tools for Air Force Civil Engineering construction and maintenance personnel use. It’s fast, efficient, accurate and easy to use. It keeps you on pace with funding and project changes with little effort!” – USAF, Owner

“This course should be required for all General Contracting estimators and electrical subcontract estimators.” – Rick Garcia, Sr Estimator/LEED Green Associate, Herman Construction Group, Inc

“e4Clicks is a must have for federal work, especially SABER and JOC contracts.” – Victor Maga, President/CEO at Spartan Construction Services, Inc.

For more updates from 4Clicks, like them on Facebook, follow them on Google+ and Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn, and subscribe to their YouTube Channel.

Line Item Cost Estimating with RSMeans for Job Order Contracting and Supporting 4Clicks Software

Plan, Contract, and or Bid JOC Projects Efficiently

best joc software
Owners –

– Develop objective, transparent, cost-effective and successful JOC Programs

– Manage your own destiny

– Better communicate with and better support your selected Contractors

– Adopt the industry standard – 80%+ of all JOCs are based upon RSMeans Cost Data (typically the RSMeans Facilities Cost Book)

– Develop long-term relationships with Contractors

– Easily provide detailed oversight for all projects and funds

– Use defensible, objective, cost data

– Easy compare your estimates with Contractor estimates using automation – comment at a line item level!

– Take advantage of visual estimating / automated QTO and advanced Pattern Search

– Manage multiple Contracts, Projects, Estimates, Co-efficients, UPBs, CCIs and more!


– Bid with confidence and win more JOCs – Put your best foot forward!

– Manage multiple JOCs, co-efficient, subs, UPBs, CCIs, and more.

– Better support Owner needs

– Engage in longer terms relationships with Owners

– See the best representation of RSMeans Cost Data available – 400,000+ line items with individual line items for modifiers and full descriptions in plain English

– A true cost estimating and project management software application designed and supported ” by Estimators for Estimators”… not simply an electronic representation of RSMeans hardcopy books!

– Contract,Project, Estimate, and Document Management all within a collaborative software program…not a “single user only” technology.

– RSMeans City Cost Indexes / Location Factors for over 930 U.S. and Canadian locations.

– Copy, paste, and share estimates

– Update costs from year to year in seconds

All this, plus the best JOC Training and Support Available Anywhere – Virtual, On-site, Regional

” As I told one of the other participants, my knowledge has at least doubled after sitting through today’s class. I learned an immense amount of helpful tips and tricks to make me that much more efficient at costing out projects. I also learned quite a bit of peripheral knowledge, such as all the helpful references, rules of thumb, and shortcuts. Who knew there was a table for lbs. of sheet metal, SF of insulation, # of diffusers and return registers, per ton of cooling on packaged a/c units? I didn’t before today. That sure makes figuring out how many lbs. of sheet metal a breeze! Knowing that such references are built into the software, and knowing where/how to find them, is beyond helpful.” – USAF CE/CES

– 4Clicks Introduction to RSMeans Estimating

– Electrical Estimating

– Architectural / Finishes Estimating

– Mechanical Estimating

– Introductory

– Advanced

We also support DOD  training (i.e. INCOM, Air Force, …) with materials and instructors.

Learn why the following leverage Clicks Solutions to improve productivity and transparency, or quite simply, to get more construction project completed on-time and on-budget: 85%+ of United States Air Force Bases, USACE Districts, Army Installations, as well as DOE, FAA, Forest Service, GSA, NASA, NIST, NPS, VA, and their Contractors to implement JOC, SABER, IDIQ, MATOC, MACC, BOS, etc.

best JOC software

Job Order Contracting – JOC – Best Management Practices


JOC, like any other successful AECOO activity, requires experience, collaboration, and transparency in order to succeed.

JOC is an efficient and widely practice method for both Owners and Contractors to manage their numerous common repair, renovation, and maintenance construction projects. These types of projects represent the majority of dollars spent for most Owners and the trend will continue.

Experience – One must be an experienced estimator and experienced RSMeans, or any RSMeans-based JOC. Experience in BOTH of is a prerequisite for the Owner and Contractor. Knowledge of RSMeans line item estimating (not square estimating) and what each line item contains, as well as the associated use of the CCI (city cost index) and co-efficients is the level of knowledge “standard”.

Collaboration – Not all owners and contractors are suitable JOC, or even more specifically an RSMeans JOC.   Both need to have sufficient experience in estimating, construction, teaming, and be willing to truly share information. Joint site walks and scoping common. A reasonable profit, quality, and projects complete on-time and on-budge, and long term relationships are the goal. An alternative, of course, for an Owner to “outsource” your JOC. In this case, an Owner pays a fee to have a third party administer their JOC program. There are obvious pros and cons of outsourcing. Outsourcing any facilities aspect is a strategic decision, and one not to be taken lightly, especially if facilities are core to an organization’s mission.

JOC Process

Transparency – The RSMeans (or any good UPB) provides the ability to rapidly gain insight into job scope. Custom line items can easily be constructed and are built into the same data architecture (MasterFormat) and tagged accordingly. They can later be added to the UPB.

Some of you reading this may have had previous and even significant experience with JOC,  UPBs  (Unit Price Books- custom, national, regional, and custom), as well as other forms of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and all of us are still learning each and every day.

If you would like to learn more visit,… and I can provide other informational sources. There are multiple case studies, white papers, and research documents. A national JOC study is also currently underway. It’s being sponsored the Center for JOC Excellence, our firm and others, and run by ASU.

A few other items:

Most JOCs require the use of RSMeans and specifically “bare costs” and the Facilities Cost Book. With the acquisition of RSMeans by the Gordian Group, there has been some indication that the Gordian Group is beginning to market RSMeans for construction cost estimating only, and the CTC for JOC. As one does actually construction cost estimate for JOC, the distinction may be causing confusion for some.  Nonetheless, any construction cost unit price book can be used that is appropriate for both the Owner and Contractor.  There are a wide range of construction cost resources available, thus any decision in this regard should be made after researching the market and matching available options with your specific needes.

Bare costs do not include contractor’s overhead(s) and profit.

Estimating JOC projects and/or bidding JOC contracts requires many of the same considerations as a non-JOC situation”

  • Average size projects
  • Annual volume
  • Competition
  • Type of work
  • Site conditions / site access
  • risk(s)
  • work complexity
  • Labor type, availability, productivity
  • Time of year
  • General requirements:

General Requirements: managers, site trailers, schedule management, quality control, daily clean up, security, safety, communications, computer software…

Overhead: home office related costs…


Definition of Cloud Computing

The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Essential Characteristics:
On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability[1] at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Service Models:
Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure[2]. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.
Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider.[3] The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

Deployment Models:
Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.
Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them.  It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.
Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).

[1] Typically this is done on a pay-per-use or charge-per-use basis.
[2] A cloud infrastructure is the collection of hardware and software that enables the five essential characteristics of cloud computing. The cloud infrastructure can be viewed as containing both a physical layer and an abstraction layer. The physical layer consists of the hardware resources that are necessary to support the cloud services being provided, and typically includes server, storage and network components. The abstraction layer consists of the software deployed across the physical layer, which manifests the essential cloud characteristics.  Conceptually the abstraction layer sits above the physical layer.
[3] This capability does not necessarily preclude the use of compatible programming languages, libraries, services, and tools from other sources.



Ceasel is a true cloud construction cost estimating system.  In development for over 5 years, it currently has one (1) U.S. Patent and two (2) patents pending.  It is truly unique in terms of capability and performance.

Ceasel enables Owners, Contractors, and AEs to create, access, update and share information real-time from virtually any location.

The ability to scope, estimate, bid, authorize, and manage numerous renovation, repair, maintenance and new construction projects depends upon multi-discipline teams supporting one another with the necessary resources, independent of location.

While many organizations continue to struggle with dated software applications and cumbersome databases, and in-house IT resource struggle to patch legacy systems, the wave of distributed cloud computing is upon us all.

Traditional software is all but “dead”, while purpose-built cloud apps, just like your smartphone apps, that excel at their particular function are here to stay. These cloud apps will link to organizational clouds on both sides of the firewall.

Specific to cost estimating, spreadsheet as we know them will also be a thing of the past.   Cloud spreadsheet-like interfaces will be capable of dynamic hierarchy and maintaining and generating unlimited data sets “on-the-fly”, as well as maintaining a permanent history of all data and changes. Information will never be deleted.

Perhaps most importantly, information will be available in multiple formats including traditional MS Office Documents, PDF, image, video, and more.

Welcome to 4Clicks Ceasel Cloud Estimating.   Ceasel delivers unlimited computing power, performance, and all the security required through Microsoft Azure, and/or behind your firewall.

Ceasel - Patents Pending

Ceasel – Patents Pending

 Collaboration Supported by Technology

Projects involve team members working out of different locations require a global file system.  Members need various read/write access to the files related to contracts, projects, estimates and more.  Changes are common and must be time stamped and permanently maintained.  Ceasel truly enhanced performance and productivity.   Your organization and its partners are provided with a unified storage solution, leverage cloud and local systems.  Scalability is automatic and required no direct client intervention.

Complete data protection and high performance storage is virtually assured via levels associated with the MIcrosoft Azure Cloud technology.

As all versions of contract, project, and estimate data are captured as “snapshots” and encrypted, and permanently stored, issues associated with cumbersome backups and traditional synchronization issues are eliminated.