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Construction Estimating Software

Construction Estimating software enables contractors and builders to accurately estimate project costs. Estimating software is used by home builders, contractors, and architects to effectively manage construction budgets. Also, building estimating software is common with interior and landscape designers to quickly and efficiently produce accurate and competitively-priced proposals to potential customers. Construction Estimating software also offers features such as job and sub-contractor scheduling, blueprint scanning and auto-updating materials pricing databases. Construction Estimating software is related to Construction Accounting software, Architectural Drafting software, Construction CRM software and Construction Management software. Find the best construction estimating software for your organisation in Australia.

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Construction Estimating Software Buyers Guide

Construction estimating software makes it easier for organisations to gauge the cost of a construction project more accurately, factoring in a wide range of variables, such as material costs, contractors, schedules, and more. This type of software can be designed for certain specialist areas of construction, such as electricians or HVAC contractors. The estimates produced by the software can then be presented to potential clients so that they can see a detailed breakdown of what they will be paying for.

Some of the core features a buyer should expect to find in this type of software include helpful things like pre-built estimate templates, support for construction-related formulas, and an ability to connect to supplier databases for up-to-date pricing. Another core feature of this type of software is the ability to store costing information on an assembly, meaning an organisation can create an estimate for a specific task or project and then incorporate it into greater project estimates. Doing this saves the organisation time regarding re-doing estimates that they have already done in the past.

Aside from the aforementioned time savings, this type of software system offers many benefits over traditional methods of estimating construction projects, thanks to being able to save assembly estimates. The two main ways these platforms can benefit the customer are accuracy and overall time savings. With this software, estimates will be far more accurate. They will also take much less time to calculate since the software does most of the heavy lifting.

There are many closely related software categories, including some that are essentially a sub-category of this one, like residential construction estimating software and electrical estimating software. It also bears similarities to other applications that have to do with estimating, such as remodelling estimating software. This type of software can be deployed in a number of ways, including Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

Businesses looking to adopt this type of software will have many things to consider, not least of which is the feature set provided and whether those features meet the needs of the business. Another critical factor is whether the software solution can scale with the company if needed. By taking all of these factors into account, an organisation should be able to make an informed choice about which software solution to choose. The software found in the construction estimating software category will usually include:

  • Use pre-made templates and create templates that can be used in the future to speed the process of estimating some of the more routine jobs an organisation performs
  • Create assemblies—pre-defined portions of a project—that can be reused in other projects and, in turn, speed up the estimation process
  • Provide active connections to supplier's pricing information so that estimates are accurate and up-to-date without the need to manually enter new pricing data
  • The ability to use formulas as part of the estimation process, such as estimating the cost of concrete based on the volume of the area to be concreted
  • Referenced items and materials, allowing the organisation to update the details of one item and have that new information automatically propagate to any open estimates that use the item

What is Construction Estimating Software?

Construction estimating software is designed to make the process of estimating the time and cost of a construction project much quicker and simpler. One of the main advantages of using this type of software is it can store various types of information that can be reused, saving time on future estimates. It also allows for much more accurate estimates since the information used in the numbers used in the estimate will be calculated by the software using up-to-date information.

As a general rule, this type of software covers construction as a whole, though there are more specialised categories of software, such as electrical estimating software. It makes the process of estimating a project as simple as a few clicks in the case of routine projects that an organisation needs to conduct on a regular basis, making it much faster than traditional methods when estimating entirely new projects. The software will also typically provide contact management features that make it easier to create, store, and access estimates for repeat customers and many new customers at the same time.

Many construction companies have turned to this software because it brings a degree of automation to previously laborious tasks, such as calculating the estimated cost of concreting a specific area based on the volume of that area. Users can set up predefined formulas for calculating things once and reuse those formulas in future estimates. The software will usually enable straightforward management of clients, making it especially easy to track several estimates and open new estimates for existing customers. Ultimately, it is the time savings and increased accuracy of estimates created using this software that makes the software an attractive proposition for construction companies.

What are the benefits of construction estimating software?

The benefits of construction estimating software are primarily focused on time and cost savings, as mentioned above. There are many ways in which these time and cost savings are achieved. Below are some of the basic benefits of construction estimating software explained in more detail:

  • Use pre-made templates to speed up workflow: Software of this type will often come with a range of pre-made templates—as well as the ability to make custom templates—that can speed up the process of creating a new estimate. Many businesses in the construction industry will find themselves taking on similar jobs regularly, such as constructing a particular design of a house or a set structure like a car park. In these cases, having pre-made templates can substantially speed up the estimation process since most of the initial work of the estimate will already be complete.
  • Reduce repetitive tasks with assemblies: While pre-made templates are suitable for similar projects, not all projects are the same. However, even construction projects that are wildly different often involve a good deal of reusable aspects. The use of assemblies makes it possible to create collections of items and resources and save them to use in later estimates. An example of this might be a bus shelter containing several materials and fixings. A company with a contract to build and maintain bus routes in a city might have many different structures to build, but the bus shelter would likely be the same each time. Using an assembly would erase the need to build the bus shelter estimate each time.
  • Accurate calculations using formulas: Not all aspects of a construction project can be easily broken down into a bill of materials, but formulas make it possible to factor in soil, water, concrete, and other materials that don't come in easily defined units. Calculating the materials needed to concrete a defined area is no simple sum, but software like this can use formulas that would require only the minimum of input—such as the volume and type of concrete—to produce an accurate estimation of the quantities needed.
  • Contact management and project tracking: Construction companies often work with repeat clients, especially when contracts for larger projects are issued. Having a simple system for finding customers, saving estimates, and pulling up past estimates makes it much easier to keep track of multiple clients and projects. It is increasingly common for this type of software to offer direct communication options straight from the application, such as being able to email an estimate directly to a customer with a single click.
  • Item and task management with ease: For software solutions that offer connections to external services, it is often possible to have the cost of materials from third-party suppliers be updated in real-time when creating an estimate. This is done by pulling the prices directly from the supplier, ensuring they are always up to date. Additionally, items and tasks listed in individual estimates will be referenced rather than created for that estimate. Any new changes to those items and tasks can be automatically propagated to all open estimates.

What are the features of construction estimating software?

The features of construction estimating software focus on making the process of estimating a construction project much more cost-effective and accurate. This is mostly achieved by speeding up the process, and several tools are used to make this happen. Here are some of the most common features of construction estimating software:

  • Supplier pricing database: This is usually a feature limited to Software-as- a- Service (SaaS) offerings, but some construction estimating solutions provide an up-to-date database of material prices from local distributors. This feature may also be accompanied by the ability to automatically calculate costs. This can be an enormous time-saver when working on greater estimates, and it also ensures that the estimates are more accurate since the costs used will be up to date at that moment.
  • Assembly management: An assembly is a term used to describe a smaller part of a structure or project. For example, a door is not just a single item; there is the door, the door frame, the fixtures, and the fixings. Rather than adding all of these items each time a door is needed in a project, a user can create an assembly for a specific type of door. Furthermore, it will save all necessary information and then simply import that assembly into the project. This saves a great deal of time on sub-structures that are used a lot by an organisation.
  • Pre-built estimate templates: Pre-built estimate templates are precisely what they sound like; ready-made templates make creating a new project less time-consuming. Almost all construction estimating software solutions will have some templates available, and it is usually possible to create custom ones for future use. These templates will be designed for a certain type of construction job and include all the information laid out clearly and ready for the user to input. Templates will often be modifiable also. This is a critical feature as it allows organisations to put their branding on the estimated document being sent to the customer.
  • Multi-item updating: Using dedicated software rather than paper forms or standard spreadsheets will allow for the use of referenced items. This means that the things included in an estimate—such as construction materials like bricks—are linked rather than entered manually. The benefit of this is that the organisation can change a particular item or task once, and those changes will automatically be applied to any estimates created or updated. This significantly reduces the amount of time spent keeping estimates up to date. The information being updated could be anything from the cost of the item (in cases when the cost is not linked to a third-party supplier) to the description of what that item is.
  • Formulas: Not all aspects of a construction project can be simply boiled down to an amount of a particular item. For example, concrete is a substance that is mixed using several ingredients, and what those ingredients are and what ratios they need will change depending on the type of concrete required. The process of estimating the cost of things like concrete is sped up considerably, thanks to the use of formulas. A company would be able to set up a formula for the types of concrete they use. Then in the estimate, simply select the desired type of concrete and input the volume of concrete needed, and the formula will calculate the costs.
  • Customer contact management: Keeping track of customers and, more importantly, projects can be a challenging prospect for an organisation that deals with many clients. Contact management features allow a company to store contact details for their customers so they can easily reach them and quickly pull up open or past estimates. In many cases, this will also include the ability to easily send estimates to clients from within the application.
  • Compliance tracking: While compliance tracking is typically more the purview of inventory control software, it is often a feature of construction estimating software. This allows an organisation to keep track of its resources and see where potential conflicts of resource usage may be in the projects that are being tendered.

What should be considered when purchasing construction estimating software?

When purchasing construction estimating software, it is important to consider a wide range of factors relating to the specific needs of the organisation versus the features provided by the software. One of the bigger decisions to make is choosing a SaaS solution or something that is deployed locally, though the correct answer will depend on the circumstances and needs of the business. SaaS solutions are hosted remotely and can be accessed from most devices, whereas locally deployed solutions require hardware to run them on. Below are some of the considerations that should be taken into account when buying this software:

  • What are the key features of the software? The first thing to consider is, of course, the features. If a potential software solution does not do the things an organisation needs it to do, it is essentially pointless to use it in most cases. Similarly, suppose a software solution features a number of additional features that would be wasted on the organisation. In that case, it may be an unwise investment to purchase that solution because the business would be paying for features that it doesn't need and won't use. It is also worth remembering that it is unlikely a software package will contain precisely those features needed by an organisation (and only those features). However, SaaS solutions often have different tiers with different feature sets.
  • What will the software cost? Once it has been established that the software's features meet the needs of the business, the next most important thing to consider is the cost of that software. Whether purchased as a one-off licence or taken as a month-to-month subscription, this software will represent an investment by the organisation. It is worth considering whether that investment will pay off. In the case of construction estimating software, the clearest metric to look at is time saved, as that is often where the biggest savings are made. The lifespan of the software will need to be factored in here as well. If the software is a one-off purchase, how long will it be before that software needs upgrading or replacing? It will need to be worth the investment within that period.
  • Does the software provide real-time material costing? While perhaps not a crucial feature for every business, the ability to pull real-time prices on materials and other supplies from local distributors is an enormous time-saver in this line of work. Ultimately, the value of this feature will come down to the business using it, but it is certainly worth considering. In some cases, it will be included as part of the package for SaaS solutions.
  • How does the software handle customer data? Data protection is increasingly a hot-button topic as cybersecurity threats continue to grow. A construction company isn't typically the type of company that comes to mind when thinking about data security breaches, but the risk is still there. In the case of companies that take on large construction projects for powerful clients, the damage from a data breach could be especially bad. As a general rule, construction estimating software should always store customer data securely.
  • Is the software too broad in scope? While this type of software should cover the needs of any construction estimating process, it may be too broad in scope in some cases. There are more specialised variations of this software, such as residential construction estimating software and electrical estimating software, which focus on particular aspects and sub-categories of the construction process. If a company specialises in a certain area of construction, a similarly specialised variation of construction estimating software may be a more cost-effective solution.
  • Does the software include appropriate templates? Templates are useful time-saving tools when starting a new construction estimate, but they only save time if they are used. If a software solution doesn't come with templates suitable for the type of work the business does, they may as well not be there. Most of the time, this type of software will come with a range of templates, and there should be something to suit most situations, but it is worth checking.
  • Is the software compatible with other software? Integration with other software solutions is often automatic in SaaS solutions but requires specific compatibility in locally deployed applications. If a company is already using related services or software—such as inventory control management—it will be beneficial to choose a software solution compatible with those other applications.
  • Is the software appropriate for the size of the business? In the case of SaaS solutions, it is usually possible for the software to scale up with the business as it grows. With locally deployed software, scaling can be a little more difficult, as the business will also have to scale up the underlying hardware to support it. Of course, future growth is only predicted in most cases, but future-proofing software solutions like this can save a lot of headaches in the future.

The most relevant construction estimating software trends are like every area of the software industry. Construction estimating software is continually growing and changing. This is driven not just by changes in the construction world but also by advances in software. Here are some of the most relevant trends within the field of construction estimating software:

  • Increased integration: Integration with other software solutions and other construction services is likely to continue to grow. There are too many moving parts for this type of software to cover everything, and developers know that integration with those aspects of the job that are being handled by other software solutions will make their software a more attractive prospect. This applies to both online services and locally deployed software solutions.
  • A broader scope of functionality: It may not be possible for construction estimating software to do everything. However, there has been a notable expansion of scope in recent years, and it is likely to continue. As this type of software advances, it is probable that solutions will cover more and more of the process before and after the estimation.
  • AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly finding a home in analytical software thanks to its ability to cover much greater amounts of data in much shorter amounts of time than human beings can. The areas in which AI can be useful in the construction estimation process include risk assessment, identifying elements in engineering drawings and schematics, and cost calculation.
  • Continued move to cloud-native apps: A good portion of construction estimating software solutions are still locally deployed on Windows or Linux platforms, but the move toward cloud-native applications is unlikely to slow down going forward. SaaS solutions typically provide customers with a more comprehensive and reliable service while, at the same time, providing the vendor with a more stable income. It is increasingly likely that locally deployed software will become very uncommon.