Cost Estimating Presentation

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    Tim Bono

    Hello friends and fellow Landscape Architects,

    I’ve been tasked with giving a presentation to my multi-disciplinary design firm (architects and engineers) on Cost Estimating. This will be a basic primer on what cost estimates are, how we use them, when we use them, why we use them, pitfalls to avoid, etc.

    Has anyone come across any good presentations or materials they would recommend or be willing to share on this topic?

    Thanks in advance.

    Mark Di Lucido

    Edward Tufte’s books are the gold standard when it comes to the display of quantitative information. Left-brained people like engineers, and half-right and half-left brained people like architects will relate to Tufte’s logic. You could even present the same information simultaneously in traditional spreadsheet format (which Tufte characterizes as ‘imprisoned’), and via the Tufte way to see which your audience prefers and why.


    “RS Means” is probably the authority on construction estimating, however in my experience it tends to be overly complex and better suited to larger public bid type jobs. In order to generate accurate estimates through RS Means many (if not all) of the design decisions must already be made such as thickness of base materials, finishes, even wage agreements, etc. This level of detail will usually be determined much later during the construction documents phase, but it is often much earlier in the project that I am asked to provide an estimate.

    The best way I have come up with is to use my past projects as a guide. You can get an accurate number for bluestone paving for example, if you simply compare pricing for say the last 3 projects that were built. Keep good records and you will have lots of numbers to compare.

    Also, I like to call it an “Opinion of Probable Cost”, as I am not a contractor and do not want to have to justify my listed unit prices… I simply say “these are numbers we would expect to see from a reputable contractor based on past similar projects”. Unfortunately it’s almost always a no-win situation. The client will usually pressure you to tighten up your numbers, eliminate the contingencies you thoughtfully included, and disagree with you over the numbers you provided because “I built a patio at my house for 1/2 of that”. Then the real numbers will come in high from the contractor and everyone will be pointing at you!

    I am also interested to know what others do. Good luck with your presentation!

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