What Do Estimators Do?
A Construction Estimator is be expected to handle several tasks as part of their jobs so understanding what you are expected to do in your role is very important to your success. I have separated the roles of an Estimator into five categories listed below.
The five categories are:
1. Collecting Tasks
2. Preparing Tasks
3. Reviewing Tasks
4. Submitting Tasks
5. Following-up Tasks
As an Estimator/Quantity Surveyor you should understand your roles and responsibilities. Here is a list of some of the roles and responsibilities that Estimators are expected to know.
1. Collecting Tasks
Collect Tender Documents
As an Estimator, you may be required to seek, find and collect project documents.
The best way to seek and find project documents is through a project leads site like Data-bid, Biddingo or Merx. These sites will send you a daily email with contact information to access the project files
Collect Templates and Checklists
Templates and Checklists should be apart of your Estimating Toolkit. You are going to need these tools if you want to be successful at estimating. You can do a Google search for "construction templates", whatever you do just make sure you have some tools to organize your data.
Being a Team Player
Why do I have this under collecting tasks, let me explain! If you are a team player then you can delegate tasks to others who would be willing to help you out and being a team player allows you to have relationships with other people who may have helpful information, Templates and/or Checklists that you can use.
Understand Crew Rates
The crew rate is how much you charge for your crew to complete a square foot of work. Understanding your company's crew rates comes down to you or your supervisor keeping time logs related to daily production amounts.
Crew Rates X Square Footage = Labour Cost
Understanding Productivity Rates
Similar to crew rates, but the production rate is how long it takes for your crew to complete a specific task.
Productivity Rate X Square Footage = Task Duration
Tip: My advice is to purchase a Construction Cost-book from Rs Means or Craftsman to get Crew and Productivity Rates when starting.
You should use Checklists to organize your estimate; plus using checklist removes the chances of item lines being omitted on your cost estimate. You should organize your estimate in the same way that you would build the project your working on.
If your working on a large project then it may be easier for you to organize your estimate according to the Uni-Format. If you are involved in specific trades then you may want to organize your estimate according to the Master Format.
Understand the Levels of estimates
Different organizations and individuals have various ways of classes their estimate level. The estimate level refers to the accuracy of the estimate.
There are some differences between the terminology used between the various groups but the overall use of levels of estimates is to class the estimate according to the construction stage.
The 2 charts most commonly referred to are the AACE Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering and the Government of Canada Cost Estimate Classification systems.
The Government of Canada uses the ABCD method to class the estimate by the completeness of the project documents along with the complexity of the project.
The AACE uses classes 1-4 to class the estimate by the completeness of the project documents related to the design process.
Complete Quantity Take-Offs
If you collect your data and information in a manner that you can refer back to quickly then compiling your takeoff sheet will be easy.
You can complete your takeoffs by hand, with Microsoft Excel or with an Estimating Software, I currently use Excel and a Software.
Why both, because I use a digital takeoff program to get my totals. The digitizer makes it easy for me to export it into excel, where I just link the totals to items in the excel spreadsheet. I use the Estimating software when the projects have a lot of deliverables and on Phases projects.
Prepare material lists
Preparing a materials list is pretty easy after you have compiled and calculated your totals. If you're using an Estimating Software then you can just print out a material list at your convenience.
All your materials and equipment should be listed on your cost estimate, so creating your materials list is just a matter of organizing your estimate in a logical sequence.
Prepare Tender Documents
As an Estimator, you may be required to prepare or package Tender Documents for General Contractors or Trade Contractors. Preparing tender documents from scratch is different from packaging tender documents. The Architect and Engineer prepare the specifications and tender documents, then the Estimator gets the Tender Documents to price or to sublet the work.
Preparing Invitation To Tender
After you have received the Tender Documents and decided what work you're going to price and what you're going to subcontract out, then it is time to prepare and send out Invitations to Project. You should have a template that you reuse to create your invitations.
To make things easier for yourself and your invitees, you should separate and group the files in a way that makes it easy for your trades to access what they want and need.
3. Review & 4. Submitting
Some of the tasks in the review and submitting stage are intertwined with reviewing the Project Documents. To submit a proposal you should follow the instructions outlined in the Tender Documents.
Specifications and Drawings
Reviewing the Specifications and Drawings are essential to understanding the project deliverables, what special products or materials are required, the scope of work and any special instructions for the project.
Specifications and Drawings will have different formats for different companies. Some companies will combine the Specs and Drawings while others may have a Specifications in a PDF file and the Drawings in a separate PDF file. Make sure that you obtain ALL the Project Documents before you start working on your estimate.
Determine profit and overhead mark-up that you will charge for each cost category.
Once your cost estimate is put together and you have all the items and quantities filled in you need to review your estimate totals. Spend some time tweaking and adjusting your marķ-up percentages to make sure that this project will generate a healthy profit for your company.
If you use an Estimating Software the Mark-up field will already be built into your cost template. You should have a Mark-up for direct cost, indirect cost and labour burden. Calculating your profits will give you a good idea of how much profits you will generate for the project.
Calling your contacts
Simply following-up with your contacts will land you a couple of extra jobs for the year if done right. Call your contact 2 or 3 days after submitting your proposal and ask them some questions about the project and where they are in the selection process.
Don't be pushy or have a bad attitude when talking to your contact. Remember that this person may have jobs that you can price in the future. The best thing to do is to make a good impression and try to build a lasting relationship with your contacts.
Negotiate contract terms
Being able to communicate effectively with your peers is an important skill for everyone. Estimators who can communicate with clarity can save thousands of dollars by negotiating terms and conditions with other parties involved in the project.
Negotiating contract terms consist of more than just trying to get the best price on a project. Estimators need to negotiate the actual working terms related to project deliverables, the payment schedule and the way change orders will be dealt with.
The construction industry is governed by the Construction Lien Act which states the recommended and legal payment terms required for every project.
I believe that contractors should be paid for their work promptly on every project without causing undue hardship on their finances.
An Estimator is more than someone who just puts together pricing for a construction project. A good Estimator understands the roles of an Estimator, the necessary skills required and tools needed to put it together.
You as an Estimator should have a systematic approach and a sense of organization. Plus, The ability to be a great problem solver, creative and resourceful.