Introduction and Evolution of Estimating Technology Infographic
A 1994 study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), found out that the U.S. capital facilities industry was losing approximately $15+ billion USD per annum in efficiency losses because of inadequate technological advances among design, estimation, facility management, and other clumsy processes and systems. Since that time, upgrades in development and technology have reduced losses, especially in the domain of cost estimation. For many decades, paper construction documents served as an industry commonplace. Initially, the old-school estimating take-off process required creating two-dimensional drawings manually and architectural scales, along with hand-written spreadsheets. All manual and requiring higher degrees of expertise. Finding a small error would take long hours of scanning through drawings and estimations. This process was long and often took weeks to complete.
Cut to 2020 and technological advancements have enabled quantity estimation remotely. With the rise and advent of BIM technology, quantity estimation is set to become holistic in the future with design, takeoff, and estimation capabilities under one roof- accessible anywhere.
Nevertheless, until then, taking note of the existing technologies, it is important to take a look at the present scenario of the estimation world. That is why; we present you with the top estimation software tools and the selection criterion influencing the use of estimation tools.
Before we begin with the analysis, let us clear the simple things first in the world of quantity estimation.
Terminologies Of Quantity Takeoff, Bid Management, and Estimating Tools
Quantity Takeoff: As the term suggests, quantity estimation is literally estimating the quantity of the physical materials/type of materials needed for that project. Professional quantity estimators draft the desired quantity required.
Estimating Tools: Estimating tools help estimators (usually for subcontractors and contractors) create the line-by-line cost and quantity estimates for materials and supplies. Generally, these tools include cost summary templates, preconfigured formulas and calculations, and regional part/material cost databases. Sometimes estimating software can provide products that cover all three – bidding, takeoff, and estimating, under one roof.
Bid Management Software: This sounds very similar to bidding software; however, it actually refers to a set of contractor tools to manage subcontractor bids. Sometimes these tools will allow contractors to produce their own bidding proposals – for which bidding software is meant to be used, but that is not the focus of these tools. An important point to note is that a bid management software includes the functionalities of a bidding software – maintaining databases, workflows, and takeoff templates, to name a few.
Difference Between Quantity Takeoff and Estimation
In mathematical terms,
Estimation = Quantity Takeoff + Pricing
Therefore – quantity takeoff is a technical process. Involves all standard quantity takeoff practices and tools to estimate the quantity required for a project.
Next is the pricing. An estimator who knows the market and organization’s costs of operation handles the pricing. This estimator is responsible for adding pricing and other important details into the quantity estimation document.
However, tabulating pricing can be done on spreadsheets and it is not necessary to use pricing software. Hence, the focus is mostly on the tools used by the quantity takeoff executives.
Factors Affecting Selection of Estimation Tools by Estimators
Just like any other tool used for general purposes, the construction quantity estimation industry too has factors affecting the choice and selection of quantity estimation tools for just the perfect value addition to projects, estimators, and organizations.
Platform – Desktop/ Cloud-Based: First things first, quantity estimation tools are mainly based on two platforms. Desktop-based offline or cloud/web-based, online. The selection primarily depends on the user’s choice but predominantly desktop use trumps taking the cloud-based approach. The cloud platform offers negligible to zero maintenance costs, unlike the desktop platforms. Both have their shares of pros and cons. Selection on this basis depends on the organization and the choice of estimator, where external factors – mentioned below, come into play.
Data Integrity & Security: Data is paramount for every organization, irrespective of its size. Therefore, when it comes to security and integrity of data – important documents containing project details, takeoff plan, estimation costs, quantity, floor plans, and schedule – desktop is still preferred more over cloud technology-based estimation tools. Offline tools remain a top priority for quantity takeoff executives and specialists. However, with modern technological advancements, the trend is changing. Estimators are adapting cloud-based modern approaches in the wake of remote working conditions and increased team collaborations.
Team Collaboration: Every project requires collaboration. Requires a collection of disciplined and motivated minds to come together and accomplish the tasks to do. Similarly, in quantity takeoffs, team collaboration happens on a daily basis. An important criterion for the selection of quantity takeoffs is if the tool promotes and facilitates team collaboration, has special features and pricing dedicated to collaboration.
UI/UX; User Friendly: Probably important for every user and even the design team, is the user interface and user experience. Whether the tool used or made is user – friendly. UI/UX design is one of the most important criteria in selecting a quantity estimation tool as the tool that is to be used for estimating such large amounts of quantities has to be easy to use and operate. Additionally, navigation plays a crucial role too. Ease of importing and exporting documents, availability of different functions, Often, the most popular and most used tools rely heavily on improving the user experience.
Support for Additional Formats like Exporting to XLS (Excel) Formats, PDF: After going through the architectural drawings, it is time to see the schedule ( technical ) for understanding the specifications and details of every unit. Moreover, there is a need to export certain tables into excel for further classification, filtration, estimation, and calculation. Hence, there arises a need to export these tables to spreadsheets. That removes additional and manual conversions and makes the estimators’ work easy.
Additional Support for the Integration of Plugins: Plugins in any software/tool facilitate additional functions and features without having to download any special software for availing that specific functionality. Similarly, in quantity estimation, tools with broad options of plugin support are generally preferred more as the processes become more efficient and fast with the use of plugins.
Additional Availability of Scales for Plans and Takeoffs: Every tool has set predefined scales or presets that help the estimators/takeoff executives with adjusting plan ratios and measurements for the perfect quantity takeoff. Hence, the additional feature of many scales facilitates efficient work and ease of estimation.
Speed of Navigation: Navigation is really about how easy it is for the user to locate functionalities and features and how the tool complements his/her working style. If navigation is easy, speed is bound to be more. Which in turn will increase the user’s productivity and consume less time navigating from one takeoff to another.
Application Size: If an application’s size is, less it always helps in occupying less storage and a more efficient system and more speed.
System Requirements: Generally, the heavier the tool, the more will be the RAM and CPU power required. And to simultaneously juggle between many takeoffs and team collaboration – the system is bound to use the maximum of resources for this task.
Value For Money: While free takeoff & estimating software is everywhere, these programs often have limited features and less secure data integrity practices. They are a good way to take a trial before deciding to buy the full version. Almost all paid software out there offers a free trial, which you can avail to test out. Be sure to talk with their team about how you can save on any premium options by electing longer subscription terms.
Top Quantity Takeoff Tools
1. PLANSWIFT: the market leader and most used.
More than 60,000 users in over 60 countries around the world use this software for innovative tools and its accuracy.
Planswift is one of the most popular and probably one of the most used estimation tools in the world for quantity takeoff. Planswift ticks off almost all the criteria mentioned. Planswift is fast, easy to use, and has a special format (.tif) which takes the original file, compresses it into its format, which makes it fast, dependable and trustable.
The benefits of using plan swift software for quantity estimation are that a lot of time could be saved on computing quantity take-offs by employing plan swift than using traditional excel spreadsheets.
The result obtained from this method is accurate compared to the result obtained from the traditional method. Adopting this software for computing quantity takeoffs could significantly reduce the efforts of the construction estimator.
By reducing the major work of the estimator, various risks that may occur in the project could also be foreseen.
According to PlanSwift:
PlanSwift can also be used for particular trades and construction specialists, such as general contractors, electrical, flooring, drywall, HVAC, concrete, plumbing, and landscaping.
Takeoff in a fraction of the time with PlanSwift software click, drop and estimate functionality.
Manage projects large and small with accurate and timely calculations.
Easily adjust cost projections, simply change product cost and recalculate!
Bid more jobs, manage them more efficiently.
Bluebeam Revu is a software application that allows users to markup, takeoff, organize, and collaborate with PDF files like never before.
With the Design Review feature, your team members can review the project details anytime they and share the ideas with you.
The document management feature helps you to place all the relevant files of the project in one place. Therefore, everyone can have access to them.
Also apart from all the functionalities that a quantity estimation software has, you also get the functionality to add your signature for effective team collaboration and brainstorming.
Additionally, many users have adopted Bluebeam Revu as their default PDF viewer.
REVIT is a software that facilitates estimation through the BIM methodology and process. Estimation and take-off through BIM are comparatively fast and more accurate. However, if you’re a beginner in the industry, then the learning curve of the REVIT software is higher than it’s counterparts.
Use Revit® to drive efficiency and accuracy across the project lifecycle, from conceptual design, visualization, and analysis to fabrication and construction.
Begin modeling in 3D with accuracy and precision.
Automatically update floor plans, elevations, and sections as your model develops.
Automate routine and repetitive tasks with Revit so you can focus on higher-value work.
Multi-purpose software that can also be used for quantity takeoffs in addition to architectural, engineering, and construction projects and design co-ordination all under one roof. Primarily uses upcoming BIM technology for quantity estimation and takeoffs.
STACK Construction Technologies provides industry-leading takeoff and estimating software for professional construction contractors. Easy-to-use, cloud-based platform helps users to transform and streamline the pre-construction process by empowering them to:
Quickly and accurately measure digital plans,
Collaborate with team members,
Customize materials and pricing
Finalize project estimates.
However, cloud-based software can be accessed from anywhere, anytime thus facilitating remote work when needed. It’s the counterpart, the desktop platform isn’t remotely accessible.
5. AUTO CAD:
AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design and drafting software application. Still used for takeoff purposes along with Revit software.
Pricing is the second part of a successful quantity estimation. Most tools, which provide takeoff services, also include pricing features and support in the software itself.
Pricing is also done by exporting the quantities to a spreadsheet and then calculating pricing per unit by adding all the necessary costs.
With the advent of BIM technology, the future of quantity takeoffs looks more inter-disciplinary. In the age of automation, it is important to move forward and go the software way of construction quantities estimation. The world has moved to adopt a software-based approach. With the rise of global pandemics, there has been a shift in adopting the next stage – cloud-based estimation software. And with BIM collaborations, it will be interesting to see whether estimators will embrace the cloud, stick with desktop platforms or go with the technology flow and take the BIM route. One thing’s for sure – the sky’s the limit.
We certainly know what we do!
At AORBIS, we are a team of consultants and product specialists with broad work experience and expertise in the A/E/C industry which allows us to take a value-driven approach to every project. Established in the year 2018, we provide building products, materials, and services to our clients based in the United States.