Tips for Using Technology to Simplify Conceptual Estimating & Historical Data

Capturing historical data is hugely important, but unfortunately, not enough builders actually do it. Since conceptual estimates are often based on design development drawings or even just verbal descriptions, your historical data can be the basis for the budget estimate. Fortunately, Sigma estimating software has the ability to reduce the amount of effort by referring to past work.

Using Libraries

Libraries in estimating software like Sigma allow you to take an entire estimate or a portion of an estimate and save it for later use. The entire structure, including all relationships, will be retained. Once an assembly is saved in a library, you can simply drag and drop that assembly  into any new estimate. Let’s say you’ve dragged a saved concrete block brick exterior assembly  and a curtain wall assembly into your estimate. In Sigma you can designate one of these items as an alternate so that it doesn’t affect the estimate. From there, you can switch from one assembly to the other to show the owner how different exterior walls will affect the price.

What are the advantages of using a library for conceptual estimates?

Because you have already determined that the structure, production rates, and material costs are all correct in a saved assembly, based on historical data, you can be confident that an item saved in a library will be reliable. You already know it’s been proven to work, so you can simply drag and drop it into another estimate for reuse. Let’s say you saved a template based on a project for a garage. If you were going to do a similar project in the future for a slightly larger structure, all you would have to do is change the square footage. Sigma would figure out all the math for the extra materials and show all the updated unit costs. By using libraries, you will not only save time, but also minimize risk.

What if a library doesn’t already exist?

In a new situation where you don’t already have a library to consult, you can leverage tools like RSMeans construction cost data. They are the universal language in North America for rough conceptual estimates and 30% DD drawings. If you went to a meeting with a conceptual budget based on RSMeans data costs, everyone would have confidence in the information and know exactly what you were talking about. Sigma has a direct link with RSMeans data, allowing users to search, drag and drop items into the estimate, or even use items to create an entire template. For example, users can start estimating a line and type the word ‘doors’. A window will pop up with all the doors in RSMeans. Then you can narrow down the list to ‘hollow metal’ and pick the one you want. It’s extremely easy to use the RSMeans cost information, and you can be sure the results it gives you will be accurate.

Transparency in Conceptual Estimates

When you present a conceptual estimate to the owner and architect, it’s beneficial to be completely transparent. By using estimating software like Sigma, you can drill down very easily to show every single component that makes up a particular cost. Let’s take the foundation for instance: you can drill down to see the excavation, backfill, rebar, and formwork, all the way down to the hourly rate, markup, and overhead. There isn’t any part off the cost for a specific item that you cannot quickly show to others.

We have prepared a number of guides and insights on how to use libraries in our community site – you can access them here –