Should the construction industry address the need for qualified Estimators to support costing in small-medium sized businesses?

Estimating constitutes a significant proportion of the work that we, at AG Surveying carry out for clients. At least 50% of all enquiries we receive are from local construction businesses seeking estimating and tender submission support.

And yet finding a qualified and experienced estimator that specialises exclusively in this field can be like searching for a left handed screwdriver – frustrating and ultimately fruitless.

Where are all the estimators?

Estimating is something that most training quantity surveyors will be involved in at some stage but it hardly ever forms a fundamental or long term part of their job.

Estimating is a very useful activity for trainee surveyors as it encourages them to think about what things actually cost at a bricks and mortar level.

Understanding how works are priced and what needs to be considered when tendering for a project ensures that a quantity surveyor adopts a realistic, moral and professional approach to managing prices from subcontractors.

Here’s what an estimator typically manages:

  • what quantities of works are required
  • how much each element of the quantified works will cost by understanding the businesses preferred procurement route, i.e. what works will be undertaken in-house and what element will be undertaken by specialist subcontractor
  • understanding material costs (what materials need to be purchased and how much for) and internal labour costs (estimated using day rates and estimated work output for in-house works)
  • who to go to to get best value prices and ensuring that subcontractors have included everything in their price in accordance with the detail of works (for subcontracted works)
  • ensuring that there are no scope gaps between subcontractors packages and prices. For example: a plumbing contractor has priced for a new boiler and manifold as it is on the mechanical drawing but not the power supply for the boiler or manifold as this would usually be provided by an electrician. And the electrician has not priced for the power supply either as it was not shown on the electrical drawings. Experience will encourage a good estimator to check the overlap in these packages and make sure there are no gaps between the packages and that no items are being double counted.

Understanding this process and developing an eye for estimating enables quantity surveyors to then differentiate between contractors who are pricing too high and those who’re pricing fairly.

So if estimating is such a valuable skill why is it so difficult to find professionals who specialise solely in estimating?

Estimators – why so elusive?

There is no discernable career path for an estimator.

There are no widely recognised qualifications to take and no degree to work toward. The role is often overshadowed and not give the recognition and training it deserves.

It’s something that people might fall into by accident and decide that they like or perhaps they’ll undertake estimating as part of a larger and sometimes completely unrelated role.

Estimating might be something that the owner or Director of a small construction company will do themselves. They’ll likely adopt a rudimentary way of building a price – for example, subcontractors that fabricate, supply and install would calculate their price by determining a rough cost of raw materials and then trebling it to cover fabrication / install and overheads and profit.  

This rudimentary approach simply doesn’t work in this day and age. In fact, it almost certainly never did.

At AG Surveying we have worked with, and continue to work with, two organisations that estimated in this way. We have since set up new estimating procedures for them to ensure that their work is estimated more accurately with known budgets for each type of cost.

A good estimator will break a job down by what it costs to deliver and then they will determine overheads and profit aspirations, and build a risk profile to ensure that the contractor has safeguarded their margin whilst delivering a fair and competitive cost to the main contractor or client.

When estimating is done well it’s sure as hell a recognisable and specialist skill in our eyes.

Changing the face of estimating

Quite frankly, we’ve had enough. Nobody puts estimating in the corner.

We’re treating estimating as a stand alone service and are pleased to say that we do have experienced estimators that excel in estimating and estimating alone.

This is something that other small-medium sized businesses simply aren’t doing.

Our army of estimators are continuously developing new and innovative ways to price works and win tenders, and as such, AG Surveying is recognised throughout Hertfordshire, Essex and London as a competitive and professional organisation of estimators.

Find out more on how we conduct estimating for small to medium sized construction businesses .

Take a look at our tiered approach to estimating services for building contractors which make us stand out as leaders in this field.