Illustration of house with calculator showing construction cost estimate

What is a building or construction cost estimator?

A construction cost estimator estimates costs for everything from buildings to infrastructure by gathering and analyzing project data. They take into account everything including materials, equipment, labor, project size, and schedule of the project. Construction cost estimators work for construction and engineering firms and provide cost estimates for all types of projects. It is these estimates which help all the stakeholders involved in the project to understand the different costs involved, and help to finalize the complicated project timelines. 

What makes a good estimator?

A construction cost estimator requires not only construction-related knowledge, but also familiarity with specific software and various soft skills. 

Hard skills

  • Math skills: It is especially important for an estimator to be able to calculate costs accurately, as well as adjust them based on factors which may vary from time to time. 
  • Ability to read technical documents: Estimators must be able to read and interpret blueprints, plans, and other technical documents such as geotechnical reports and soil analyses. This can help them get a big picture view of the project, as well as pinpoint potential areas that may increase or decrease project costs. 

  • A working knowledge of construction methods: An estimator should be able to weigh the pros and cons of different construction methods and should be familiar with what goes into and what steps are required for each method. For example, they should be able to estimate the cost difference between wood framing and steel framing. Other disciplines they may need to be familiar with include, but are not limited to, civil and structural engineering, architectural, plumbing, heating, electrical, mechanical, landscaping, and risk analysis. Often, an estimator will need to travel to the actual project site, so any prior experience in the field is highly useful.

  • Analytical skills: A good estimator should be able to recommend the best choice for materials, labor, and equipment based on analysis of project data and various factors such as cost and quality. They should be able to also look at and evaluate bids and take into account aspects such as the scope of the project and how responsive a subcontractor is, as well as examine past projects and how well they were handled. By considering every element of a project, an estimator should be able to recommend ways to reduce overall project costs.

  • Software: Estimating software can be used to simulate different choices. A good estimator should not rely solely on software, though, as the software is only as good as the data entered into it. Potential software an estimator may need to be familiar with include WinEst, PlanSwift, Procore, ProEst, and others. Knowledge of drafting software such as SketchUp or CAD is also often recommended. 

  • Certification: While this is not always mandatory, a more competitive estimator should be certified by AACE or ASPE

Soft skills

  • Collaboration: An estimator must be able to work with everyone involved in the project, including architects, engineers, contractors, sales teams, and of course, the client. 
  • Communication: In addition to being able to work with people, an estimator must also be able to communicate with people effectively, whether through writing or through face-to-face interactions. The reports they write for management and for clients must be clear so that well-informed decisions can be made by all stakeholders. An estimator may also meet with the client to discuss various avenues for reducing costs. Maintaining a good relationship with them is crucial. 

  • Ability to multitask: Often, an estimator will work on several projects at once. Thus, a good estimator should be able to keep track of individual projects while maintaining quality and accuracy. 

  • Organizational skills: It is imperative that an estimator keeps meticulous records of all projects, including estimates and actual costs. This includes records of all communication between estimator and client and other stakeholders which happen during the course of preparing project estimates. 

  • Detail-oriented: The smallest changes to a project can result in dramatically different costs, so attention to detail will lead to more accurate estimates. 

  • Time management: Estimators usually work with hard deadlines in mind, so excellent time management skills are essential. 

A good construction cost estimator must be knowledgeable, accurate, diligent, and analytical. They must be able to take on each job and make accurate estimates, as well as actively looking to improve future estimates and results. Anyone considering hiring an estimator should be well aware of these qualities. 

How can we help?

At Design Everest, we are committed to bringing you cost-effective solutions so that you can pay less in construction and materials costs for your project. While we do not offer a cost estimating service, our engineers are experienced, knowledgeable, and always looking for value engineering solutions to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible price. Call us at 877-704-5687 or schedule a free consultation today!

*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.

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