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Construction Estimators: A Key Player in Australia's Building Industry

Construction Estimators: A Key Player in Australia's Building Industry

It feels like all eyes have been on Australia’s constructionindustry as the effects of the pandemic and supply chain interruptions continueto catch up operations and increase prices. Construction projects remain inhigh demand, especially in the residential sector as the housing crisiscontinues. 

Numbers are on everyone’s mind, with risks higher than everdue to skilled labour shortages and inflation of necessary materials.Construction project managers and contractors need to find the balance betweencompetitive pricing and covering these risks to keep their businessesprofitable and projects viable. 

Enter construction estimators.

What is a construction estimator?

Construction estimators are the ones who create theestimated budget for a construction project or the ones who make contract bidsin a business. The largest marker for success for construction is awell-prepared budget that has considered all factors in the process. Estimatorsare the ones tasked with finding the balance on the actual costs of a projector crafting a competitive bid for their client.

It’s a crucial role that often flies under the radar,especially for new students or those considering the construction/tradesindustry, as it requires solid experience and years of work in the constructionindustry. It’s not exactly a career path that’s widely known or suggested, butconstruction estimators are the crux of a successful project.

It’s not just large businesses and firms that rely onconstruction estimators: construction businesses of any size will requiresomeone to do estimates for bids and handle the numbers. That person could beyou! 

Client’s Estimator

A construction estimator for a small project will often beinvolved in the design and idea stage. This is ideal for low-level residentialor commercial projects, as clients will need advice and suggestions while theydevelop a design that’s both quality and close to their vision. 

Of course, the dream home or idea won’t always be feasible,and part of the role of a client cost estimator is communication andcollaboration to create a plan that works for everyone. Managing expectationsand a budget can be tricky, but these construction estimators have the benefitof understanding and developing every part of the project.

Contractor Estimator

This is the most common kind of estimator. If you run yourown tradie business, this is the kind of construction estimator you might workwith to find viable contracts. 

They assess potential contract bids for a business to checkif the project fits the kind of work the business does and if it will beviable. This means they’ll analyse what needs to be done and how much it wouldcost and draft contract bids to assess the viability of a bid.

Contractor estimators must ensure that the business is ableto complete the scope of the work and that the bid is both competitive andprofitable. Businesses might be perfectly capable of carrying out a contract,but they need to know it’s a financially healthy decision first. 

Engineer Estimator

These estimators work at the design stage alongside theengineer to help create blueprints and designs that are both financially viableand meet quality standards. These construction estimators are experts inconstruction methods and can suggest design changes and the logistics of thecurrent design.

Key tasks and skills in the construction estimatingprocess 

The importance of a construction estimator can’t beoverstated, but what exactly goes into the role? What’s expected of aconstruction estimator, and what skills does this translate to? 

In short, construction estimation requires strongmathematical skills, negotiation (for clients who need to rein in theirexpectations), strong communication and collaborative skills and a head foranalytics to assess the many levels of a construction project. A constructionestimator should also have excellent time management skills and thedetermination to not only keep up with the market, but get ahead of it.

Analyzing Project Plans and Specifications

Potential projects start with the plans, designs, andpurpose of the construction. Analytical skills are key in this stage, asconstruction estimators will need to interpret designs and blueprints to crafttheir estimates and bids.

Construction estimators must review all specifications indetail and collect the data they need for their bids. They might visit theproposed job site to understand if the current design is viable, or what kindof equipment and site changes need to be made.

This stage forms the foundation for the rest of the process,so it’s essential to take the time required and get a complete picture.                                 

Quantity takeoffs and accurate cost estimates

After reviewing the project plans pre-bid, the materialtakeoff outlines the required materials for a project. Estimators will need toaccount for all materials and their specifications, as each unit represents acapital cost in the budget. 

For quantity takeoffs, estimators list all necessary itemsand materials for a project. If a construction estimator is working for a tradebusiness and preparing a bid, they’ll focus on the materials relevant to thetrade. For example, a construction estimator working for a bricklaying businesswon’t include the cost of wiring or piping in their estimates.

Materials will be described in units relevant to their type,and this affects calculations. 

Construction estimators need to produce an accurate costestimate for the materials. For this, estimators require robust mathematicsskills and knowledge of the current markets. The most successful estimates willalso account for possible future fluctuations and changes in the supply market.

With a list in hand, construction estimators must calculatean accurate cost for each material. 

For example:

- Count: items that are singular and can be counted asindividual units, such as studs, light fixtures, doors and windows.

- Area: materials that are calculated based on square metres,such as flooring, drywall and roofing.

- Volume: materials calculated by cubic metres, such asconcrete, gravel and sand.

- Length: materials that are calculated by linear metres,such as wiring, ductwork and lumber.

And materials aren’t the only costs to consider. Accuratecost estimation covers all the costs that are required to complete a project.

These include:

- ContractorSalaries

- Insurance

- Permits

- Management Software

- Site Facilities

- Equipment Hire and Maintenance

As you can see, construction estimators need to understandthe process inside and out to create accurate estimations.

Importance of precision in the estimation process

Budgets can make or break a project and affect the financialhealth of a business, and the last thing a budget needs is an unexpected orsurprise expense or delay. Construction estimators need to be experts in theirfield and understand every aspect of a project.

For example, analysing a construction project means projectviability is up for scrutiny as well. Sometimes stakeholders or designers willwant the project to be a certain way or utilise a particular material, but inreality, it might not be feasible for the site or the current supplymarket. 

Every part of the construction project process must beconsidered to produce an accurate construction estimation and ensure projectviability. Construction estimators also need to have their eye on the marketsand supply-demand fluctuations.

For takeoffs, lack of precision or forgotten points can havedisastrous effects. Missing materials cause delays and expensive, last-minutepurchases and delivery. Sometimes, the materials could be unavailable and causedelays or require re-assessment of the design. 

And if there’s a job that needs doing, but no tradies to do it?Nightmare!

Educational qualifications and certifications

Becoming a construction estimator carries lots ofresponsibility.  We’re not trying to scare anyone off the role, just tomake it clear! Estimating is demanding, and each project or contract bidrepresents a challenge to solve. 

Many estimators have come through the industry with years ofexperience under their belt. Others specialise in one particular trade and haveenough knowledge of the sector to be the perfect fit for constructionestimation.

There are many pathways to becoming a constructionestimator. If you’re already working in the trades and think constructionestimation is the next step in your career, or you’re a student looking to thefuture, there are study options available to prepare you for constructionestimation. 

If you’re new to the trades, it will be difficult to becomea construction manager without insight and experience in the industry. You mayneed a certificate/training in building and construction or another relevanttrade before you’re able to become a construction estimator.

Diploma in Building and Construction Management

This diploma is designed for tradies and employees in theconstruction industry who want to take the next step into estimation andmanagement. It’s a great option for already-skilled tradies wanting to developtheir skills.

Key learning includes:

- Building codes and standards

- Building and Construction Contracts

- Project Management/Project Planning

- Site Management and Supervision

- Environmental Management

This diploma is designed for low-level residential andcommercial projects, so it can be an excellent entry point for those new toconstruction estimation and wanting to upskill.

Certificate IV in Building Project Support

This is another option for estimator hopefuls. Based onelectives, there are two outcomes: Contract Administrator and Estimator. Thiscertificate is designed to prepare students for a variety of projects andoffers a selection of elective subjects to enhance their skills 

Key Learning includes:

- Read and Interpret Building Plans

- Tender Preparation

- Prepare and Administer Construction Contracts

- Building and Construction Estimation

- Building Codes and Standards

- Legal Requirements for Projects

- Management and Procurement of Building Materials

- Waste Minimisation

This Cert IV is designed to be more flexible and offer moreoptions than the diploma, but it depends on the study options available andwhat you want out of your learning. 

Salary range

So, now that we’ve covered the many tasks and skills of aconstruction estimator, what does the compensation look like? It’s important toknow the salary ranges, especially for the kind of responsibility andinvolvement that construction estimation demands!

For example, we’ll take a few roles and cover their salaryranges

Construction Estimator 

Average Salary Range: $70k - $113k per year 

This is around the average for regular constructionestimator roles. The averages account for low-level residential or contractorclient work, as many estimators gain experience and knowledge about differentprojects. The higher the salary, the more demand and the specialisation skillsof a construction estimator. 

Senior  Construction Estimator 

Average Salary Range: $98k - $180k

Experience and success come with a premium, and seniorconstruction estimators can negotiate higher salaries. Smart businesses knowconstruction estimation is an investment, so why not get an expert? For thiskind of salary, an estimator needs a wealth of experience and proven success inthe field. 

The Evolving Role of Construction Estimators

As Australia’s demand for construction grows, the demand forskilled workers and specialisations grow with it. This is especially true ofconstruction estimators, as projects and clients rely on an accurate budget tomake their projects a reality. Supply chain disruptions and rising costs havemade expert construction estimators and estimation tools more vital than everbefore
Are you considering the construction industry or want to take your businessestimating to the next level? Try AroFlo’sconstruction software to make the most of job management, streamliningeverything from takeoffs to supplier communication and timely quotes andestimates

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