Top 5 Resources for Construction Cost Estimators

Accurately estimating construction costs is essential to determining the financial viability of your project at hand and overall business survival. With plenty of tools, books and resources available to support, here are a few places to start.
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From job quoting and budgeting to contract development, workforce allocation, milestone planning, supplier arrangements and more, a solid estimation at the beginning is essential to keeping your project on track.

With supply chain disruptions impacting product availability and cost, the challenge of estimating construction costs is complex. Delivering repeatable, quality cost estimates requires relevant experience, commercial acumen and the right tools for the project at hand.

Cost estimating isn’t simply about the numbers—it’s a combination of soft skills like lateral thinking and forecasting and therefore both an art and a science.

While nothing can replace experience and on-the-job training for construction estimation, there are plenty of tools, books and resources available to support. Here are a few places to start.

Rawlinsons Australian Construction Handbook 2021

Recognised as the cornerstone of construction cost estimating in Australia, the Rawlinsons Australian Construction Handbook is now in its 39th edition.

Supporting the handbook is a dedicated Cost Guide—aimed at project costs under $1.5 million. The Cost Guide is a valuable cost control tool used from the inception of a project, right through to project completion and handover.

In addition to the cost guides for estimating, both publications include a range of important information on construction topics such as contractual procedures and conditions of contract, estimated construction time frames, information on current tax depreciation regulations and requirements, replacement insurance valuations and environmentally sustainable costs.

Estimator’s Pocket Book

If you’re looking for a practical reference that includes the most common pricing approaches, the Estimator’s Pocket Book, Second Edition, outlines clear and easy to follow steps across the spectrum of estimating tasks.

Including information such as how to process subcontractor quotations, tender settlement and adjudication, the Estimator’s Pocket Book features instructions on how to manage:

  • The NRM order of cost estimate
  • Unit-rate pricing for different trades
  • Pro-rata pricing and dayworks
  • Builders’ quantities
  • Approximate quantities

2021 National Construction Estimator

For those jobs where you can’t rely on your past experience to estimate, rely on the prices in this national standard of construction costs to get you safely in the ballpark.

Including current building costs for residential, commercial and industrial construction, the publication also offers estimated prices for every common building material, the labor cost to install the material and a total installed cost.

Construction estimating software

Save time and money by investing in the right construction estimating software. Purpose-built software will improve the speed and efficiency of your estimating, keeping your business on the front foot when responding to calls for tenders and quotes.

Your business will be better positioned to have an accurate forecast of materials, expenses, labour costs and equipment costs—helping the bottom line.

Construction estimating software also improves consistency through custom columns that can be updated as needed, providing your estimator with tools they can use in future builds and avoid costly build overruns.

These features make it possible to compare past projects, establish a construction timeframe and take advantage of streamlined systems and processes.

With estimating software, you can integrate your work with other key software solutions for your business, such as Microsoft Excel, giving you the ability to streamline your workflow and reduce replication of data.

Aside from building accuracy, consistency, precision and speed, estimating software will also take your overall professionalism to new heights. As a contractor operating in today’s competitive construction industry, it’s important that you don’t fall behind the pack by using outdated processes and cumbersome technology.

Greg Martin, from The Weitz Company, said that software has changed the face of his business: “Using Revu’s custom tool sets, profiles and data-tracking features, we can finally standardise how we capture that data and tie it to our estimating assemblies, improving the flow of information.”

Work with an external estimating service

If you have a smaller team and need more resources to improve your estimating, working with an estimating service might be an option. Professional estimation consultants are experts in their fields and often have invaluable broader industry knowledge.

Dedicated consultants offer support across:

  • Takeoffs BOM/BOQ
  • Feasibility studies
  • Full estimates
  • Cost analysis
  • Drafting

Construction estimators play a vital role in every project, reviewing technical details and blueprints and analysing costing scenarios for your project.

They may also help you define the project scope and identify and analyse elements of contracts that may impact cost estimates.

Books and resources offer a good theoretical foundation and structured approach to estimating; however, expert knowledge also plays a part in positioning your construction business to win profitable tenders. Don’t cut corners in this critical process—that next contract could lead to ongoing opportunities to grow your business.

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