The term ‘estimate’ is a very broad one that refers to any activity that attempts to quantify something. In the construction industry, it is typically used in relation to the approximate costs associated with a construction project, used, for example to assess the viability or affordability of the project or aspects of it.
An estimator, also known as a cost planner or cost engineer, is responsible for calculating how much it will cost a supplier to provide a client with products or building work. The estimator typically becomes involved during the tender process when a supplier is submitting a bid to try and win a contract. They are concerned with pricing the contract competitively but need to ensure that, if they are successful, the work/products can be provided whilst still making a reasonable profit for the supplier.
An estimator compiles estimates by assessing the materials, labour and equipment that will be required and analysing quotes that are obtained from different sub-contractors and suppliers. Estimators can produce an estimate based on bills of quantities, schedules, drawings, specifications and other tender documents provided by the client.
Some of the duties and responsibilities of an estimator include:
- Identifying and assessing what the client requires.
- Researching the costs of materials, equipment and labour.
- Calculating overheads and desired profit.
- Collecting quotes from sub-contractors and suppliers and identifying the best one.
- Assessing risks on a project and allowing for these in the estimate.
- Using software to analyse company data, inflation, exchange rates and prices.
- Taking into account projected timescales and unforeseen events that may occur.
- Preparing and submitting quotations for work.
- Monitoring costs on projects as they proceed.
It is important for estimators to be good forward-planners, capable of using a range of information and a degree of judgement to formulate cost assessments. Estimators often work closely with construction managers, planners, commercial and design teams.
While there are no established requirements to become an estimator, experience as, or working with, an administrator, technician or quantity surveyor assistant can be beneficial. Estimators can often train within a company on a dedicated scheme, or through an apprenticeship.
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