The art of estimating in construction management

Major cost overruns on any construction project are frequently due to poor forecasting of the costs and inherent risks in a contract at tender stage. That is why estimating is considered to be one of the most important practical aspects of construction management.

The process of estimating has become much more integrated, says construction estimating specialist Len Holder.

This is mainly due to technological advances. Software that measures projects has simplified the process making it simultaneously less-time consuming and more accurate.

However there are two common dangers when it comes to estimating and both have equally damaging consequences. These errors are known as overestimating or underestimating.

These errors are more likely to happen in non-standard projects and role-players should tread carefully when budgeting for unusual operations.

According to Holder overestimating occurs when quantity surveyors are trying to be too conservative or when contractors become pedantic about risk cover.

The miscalculation is motivated by the fear of the client’s reaction if additional costs surface at the end of the project. Because this scenario is common in construction projects both parties seek to cover themselves in advance.

Underestimating lies at the other end of the spectrum and usually originates from a lack of information, says Holder. “This happens when there is no structural information from the engineer.”

It is also due to misunderstandings over what is required. For example, the client may desire fancy balustrades but if this detail is not specified in the brief the contractor may assume standard balustrades are sufficient.

Len Holder provides some tips to avoid these costly errors and develop accurate estimates.

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“Don’t just work from the information given by the architect.” Do your own investigations so that you have a broader perspective of what is required and how much it will cost.

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Make sure that you have a clear understanding of what is expected. Holder says individuals who are inexperienced in the construction industry are hesitant to ask questions. He advises people to get clarification early on in order to avoid costly mistakes down the line.

In general poor communication is probably the source of most of the other problems. If the brief is unrealistic go back to the architect, client or quantity surveyor and negotiate a more reasonable deal. Present and discuss options that satisfy all parties.

The Construction Estimating course is held by Alusani Skills & Training Network®. For more information call 011 447 7470, email or visit the website Alusani Skills & Training Network®

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