By Mohamed Shehata, Director, Cumming
Have you ever been trying to get an estimate finished late at night to meet that all-important deadline and wondered if there was a better way to do things? An easier way? A more efficient way? Well, there is, so don’t let your mind wander to the dark side!
"The application of technology in cost estimating means that consultants can spend less time on the take-off and estimating process and more on analysis"
Cost estimation is the most important preliminary process in any construction project. In the construction industry, cost estimation is the process of predicting the costs required to perform the work within the scope of the project. Accurate cost estimation is crucial to ensure the successful completion of a construction project. In the past, this process used to be labor-intensive, time-consuming, and involved lots of errors since various platforms were being used in order to perform the estimate—one software for quantity take-off, another for material and labor pricing, and so on.
However, the market now offers tools to streamline the estimating process by combing 2D and 3D takeoff along with the creation of an estimate into one software package. This change should allow companies to stay ahead of competitions while showing their client that they are on the cutting edge of technology. Nowadays, we should be able to take advantage of the following benefits by moving towards new systems:
1. 2D takeoff, 3D Model extraction, and estimate creation in one software program
2. Database of line items with the buildup of Labor Rates with Crews & Production
3. Live linking of 2D and 3D quantities to the estimate
4. Easily merge estimates for automatic organization and sorting
5. Easier integration with MEP estimates
6. All estimates created in multiple cost formats (MasterFormat, Uniformat, Elemental)
7. Still able to leverage the flexibility of Microsoft Excel
8. Create comparisons or track estimates throughout the life of the project
9. Standardization of estimates allowing for the creation of a Project Benchmarking Database
The use and application of technology in cost estimating means that consultants can spend less time on the take-off and estimating process, and can spend more time on analysis and drawing meaningful insights. Think of the 80/20 rule; traditionally, consultants have been spending 80 percent of their time conducting take-off, and only 20 percent on analysis. However, with the implementation of technology, consultants can be spending 20 percent of their time on the leg work—quantity take-off—and the rest 80 percent can be spent with clients on data analytics and cost intelligence.
Also, a lot of research is currently being done in the area of leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for construction cost estimating. Many universities are exploring the development of a cost estimating system which integrates AI learning algorithms, probability estimation, and the knowledge-based system as a tool for forecasting the cost of building elements at the early stage of design when information about the project scope is limited. These research projects combine knowledge from the field of construction economics, quantity surveying, cost modeling, statistics, and construction technology to develop an easy to use tool that can assist in informed decision-making with regard to the costs of building elements.
The use of AI will definitely revolutionize the cost estimating process once it is fully developed, and it is our hope that all the key stakeholders in the construction industry will start to embrace more technology in their projects.