The “right” level of Estimating Detail (according to whom?)

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The “right” level of Estimating Detail (according to whom?)

An age-old issue in construction estimating is determining the “right” level of detail in the estimate. In my 30 years of estimating construction projects, it’s a question I still deal with, and am not convinced I’ve  found the answer yet.  I’ve spent years on both sides on this chicken-and-egg question. One side subrcribes to the  the idea that a  well-designed estimating system can and should develop a full materials list right from the initial estimate. Full-featured estimating database systems such as Timberline, WinEst, and US Cost have detail databases with assemblies fully capable of doing so. But is it efficient on bid day to have that low-level material information in the bid day spreadsheet, when all you’re doing is pricing subs and vendor quotes, and verifying scope with the bid clock ticking and the pressure on?

The other camp wants to know why you would clutter up your estimate with that extraneous detail, when we’re only successful on one in ten anyway. Less is more on bid day, and cut length framing lumber and steel studs, sheets of plywood and drywall are only in the way, distracting crucial focus at the critical moment an important sub price comes in with differing scope from the one currently in first position. Boxes of nails and drywall mud? Forget it! All that you should be managing on bid day is a Division Summary sheet, broken down by spec section, with the apparent qualified low number entered in each. Less is more. Or is it just an excuse for lazy, sloppy estimating?

Where do you weigh in on this? Please let us know and we’ll publish your comments.