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Developing the Estimator, Part 2

In the second half of his first year on the job, a new estimator should be familiar with the following:

Know the ASTM sections, building codes and UL requirements. Standards for construction materials are developed by the American Society for Testing Materials. The specifications always refer to the ASTM sections for each material. It is important for the estimator to have a copy of the various ASTM tests to reference for each material that is specified.

Building codes sometimes vary from county to county, state to state. Estimators should be knowledgeable of the building codes and how the building codes affect their scope of work.

Fire ratings for walls, ceilings, floors and roof assemblies are detailed in what is commonly referred to as the UL book. The UL requirements for fire ratings are usually referenced within each set of building documents. Estimators should keep a current set of UL books in order to cross reference (and comply with) the specified UL designs.

Production rates and labor unit costs. At this stage, the estimator should begin to learn the production rates for the various labor activities. It is also essential to know and to understand how the elements of the building design will impact (and change) the base rate of production. The estimator should begin to learn how his scope of work would interface with the work of other trades, and how their production is affected by the work of those trades.

Equipment options. Equipment could be in the category of hand tools, rolling scaffolds, fixed scaffolding, scissor lifts, boom lifts, swinging stages, dollies or forklifts. The estimator should learn the different equipment options that are available for the different scopes of work, and the appropriate utilization and costs of the equipment as well as the affect of the equipment on production rates, stocking, etc.

During the first six months of year two on the job, a new estimator should be familiar with the following:

Engineering requirements and manufacturer’s recommendations. It is during this period of training that the estimator should be able to identify the difference between load bearing and non-load bearing partitions. He also needs to fully understand the effects of wind load, seismic requirements, fire and sound ratings. Learning how to utilize the limiting heights charts to determine the stud size and gauge of metal studs will become a very valuable reference.

Value engineering. The estimator should understand the value engineering process and know how and when to make suggestions for saving time and money.

Project designs are often over budget because the architect has not used the most cost effective selections. An estimator with excellent value engineering skills will be a huge asset to his company.

Finalizing the estimate. At this stage, the estimator should be taught to understand the costs related to the work as well as overhead, labor burden and profit margins. The estimator should be able to analyze the estimate to ensure that there is not a major mistake. To accomplish this, the estimator should learn the different analysis methods.

Additionally, the estimator should be able to compare the proposed project schedule to the man-hours required to perform the work to determine the average manpower required to comply with the schedule. Then, from that determination, the estimator should be able to evaluate the need for overtime or the inefficiencies created by a compressed schedule.

Writing an effective proposal. An estimator should learn how to clarify problems and ambiguities found in the drawings/specifications. These clarifications, along with any inclusions and exclusions, should be incorporated into the proposal.

About the Author

Charles Mahaffey is president of Accuest, LLC, and The Academy of Construction Estimating in Atlanta.

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