Estimating the right way

Posted in Buildsoft, Cubit, Global, by Trevor Moseley

Baking a Construction Cake…

How many times would you not bother to get the scales out to weigh ingredients into ‘say’ a cake! You just guesstimate it, right? The difference is if you are wrong, the worst thing that could happen is you finish up with a cake that doesn’t taste right or hasn’t risen. Not such a big disaster even if you, at the end of the day, throw it out. Hence the reason to use the right recipe if you want to be sure. So ‘broadly speaking’, you could say that the amount of detailed estimating required to achieve a good end result is directly proportionate to the correct ingredients and the method of mixing and cooking.

So what does this tell you?
    1. Be armed with the right ingredients (Building Material)
    2. Know how to put them together (Labour)
    3. Use the correct method of mixing (Plant required to construct)

So now you’ve got the materials plant and labour, you still require one final ingredient! The knowledge and know how to achieve the best final result. Where does that come from?


This can come from a few different sources. If you’re a tradesman, the knowledge you have obtained in your own trade training together with common sense, or past work study by Construction Companies, Quantity Surveyors and Estimators who have worked in the Construction Industry over a number of years.

Being armed with this knowledge is only the beginning, being able to recognise if the information you have before you is adequate for the job at hand comes from a combination of your own experience and the experience of others.


Best invention since sliced bread

I remember a young estimator from a T3 construction company purchasing one of my databases. He described it as being the best invention since sliced bread. A little too over enthusiastic I thought at the time.

“How are you going to use it?” I asked him.

To which he replied, “To churn out tenders by the score, for one thing!”

I advised him that this was a great learning tool on how to set out, methodically, the way you approach estimating and it provided a check list of what was needed to be included within each rate. However, I cautioned him that he would still need to apply his own reasoning of whether the individual rates need to be adjusted for a particular project.

“Adjusted? Adjusted how?” He asked.

Again I responded to his vague and puzzled look. “The database has a set of production levels and waste factors within it which I have built up over the years. Not all work undertaken in tenders will necessarily conform to these outputs or waste factors.”

“Well, how do I know when to change them?” He asked.

“It’s called experience,” I replied. “The kind you get from working in the industry and speaking with older construction professionals. In other words whilst the database is a great tool to reduce the amount of time required to build-up rates in detail it will need to be updated and tailored to the type of job being undertaken at any one time. No two jobs are exactly the same.”

So remember, it’s great to have tools to assist and help you to be more efficient, but all tools require user participation, use them incorrectly and you’re more than likely to get the wrong answer, and it’s no good telling your boss ‘it was the programs fault’, I’m sure he would had heard it all before!

Written by

Trevor Moseley, AAIQS, ICECA

QS Project Services