History of cost estimating

Take off timeline

The take-off process itself is most affected by digital technology advancements.

In a two-step process, take-offs build a digital picture of the project, taking into consideration a multitude of factors related to each structural component such as material types and quantities.
In the second step, estimators apply costs to the quantities to arrive at an estimate conclusion. Customized Excel spreadsheets have become the leading software for automating the estimating process. In fact, it is likely that more estimators use proprietary versions of Excel than all other take-off and estimating applications combined.

Another well-known process that is widely used to calculate areas, perimeters and counts is digitizing technology. Digitizing technology enables estimators to convert paper dimensions into digital formats with the simple use of a handheld stylus.

The adoption of onscreen electronic plans and takeoff capabilities eliminates almost all need for paper blueprints. Cost estimators can transfer quantities and dimensions directly from two-dimension electronic AutoCad drawings for immediate use in their estimates. Many firms use these onscreen take-offs to save time, improve efficiency and generate more accurate quantity takeoffs.

The latest advancement in the cost-estimating environment is the incorporation of BIM, which utilizes three-dimensional models. It has proven to provide an enhanced degree of certainty in that it exposes costly errors and omissions made visible by the BIM model. The BIM platform serves as a central location for both the construction and design teams to streamline their activity and provide more insightful and accurate reports.

The next generation of BIM can access design and construction models through a broad range of cloud-based systems that provide mobility, accessibility and virtually infinite computing power. Multidiscipline design and construction teams can improve project outcomes by moving computation-intensive tasks to the cloud, enabling more rapid simulation and visualization and optimized collaboration with access to intelligent, data-rich models. This will have a great impact on construction cost estimating.

To increase profitability in a market that operates on the “time is money” philosophy and remain competitive, today’s successful construction professionals use technology tools to improve communication and accuracy.

With the adaptation of new estimating tools in collaborative team settings increasing, the industry will be more able to provide rapid cost feedback to initial designs, make changes to attain target value and deliver the best  value to the owner.

Source : www.construction-today.com/sections/columns/1059-the-evolution-of-cost-estimating

Pre 1980s

  • Paper Construction Document served as industry standard
  • Old fashioned estimating take off process required manually created two dimensional drawings using pencil, paper and architectural scales and handwritten spreadsheets
  • On bid day, subcontractors telephoned or faxed costs as estimators recorded it all on paper
  • Process took months to complete

1980s – 1990s

  • Paper Construction Document served as industry standard
  • Old fashioned estimating take off process required manually created two dimensional drawings using pencil, paper and architectural scales and handwritten spreadsheets
  • On bid day, subcontractors telephoned or faxed costs as estimators recorded it all on paper
  • Process took months to complete

2000s

  • Cost Estimate done in 2D plan take offs with PDFs
  • 2D quantity take off tools gave estimators more time to explore value engineering options for greater accuracy and improved project deliverables
  • 2D plan take offs allowed estimators to maintain confidence in itemized quantities

Present

  • Current method is 3D quantity take offs from BIM
  • BIM utilizes 3D models and provides enhanced degree of certainty
  • Project outcomes improved by moving computation intensive tasks to cloud, enabling more rapid simulation and visualization and optimized collaboration with access to intelligent, data rich models
  • Process provides rapid cost feedback to initialdesigns, makes changes to attain target value and delivers best value to owner

The evolution of cost estimating

According to a study in 1994 conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the US capital industry was losing an estimated $15.8 billion per year in efficiency losses because of inadequate interoperability among computer-aided design, estimating, facility management and other siloed processes and systems. Since that time, advancements in focused development and technology have reduced losses, especially in the area of cost estimation.

For several decades, paper construction documents served as an industry commonplace. Initially, the old-fashioned estimating take-off process required manually created two-dimensional drawings with pencil, paper and architectural scales, and hand-written spreadsheets.

Today, smart technology provides the means to do increasingly more accurate take-offs which produce savings of up to 45 percent in cost planning and construction cost estimating.

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