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Defining An Estimator

Posted By Phil Tournor, Friday, April 20, 2018

I have been doing this thing called estimating for about 20 years now, and the way the industry has changed as far as the estimating position is concerned leaves me a bit confused at times.   When I started in the “real world” after college, I was employed by a General Contractor; and we probably had close to 7 people plus a VP, then we grew to about 12 or 13.  The philosophy was that we took off every nut and bolt on the job and assigned a value to it whether we understood any aspects of that scope or not.   At the time, I really despised it because I was working late hours doing tedious takeoff with an “old school” digitizer and slow servers which took some time 20 minutes to process an estimate.   Now that I have been in large concrete work for 17.5 years now, that sort of hard knocks training really made me into good all-around estimator.  


My concern is, now that colleges are only offering a semester or no required classes on estimating, I am finding the “kids” coming out of school going into estimating do not really understand what estimating is.  More concerning is some large GCs don’t really have a true estimating department.  Whether you are a sub or general contractor the best way to sum up what estimating is defined is the theme we have with our CPE Technical Papers, which is “how to estimate the cost of (something) ….”.   


What I have seen over the years is many estimators are not called estimators in some companies, and do not fully understand the meaning of HTECO.   Its most evident on bid day, especially on hard bids.  When I was a GC, we did take-off on every nut and bolt with the understanding that subs are going to put together their best number by trying to eliminate the “what ifs” like weather, and not doubling markup by carrying other subcontractors.  


I feel our organization needs to take a look at getting back to the basics of estimating for the younger generation or the definition of an estimator we all know and love will be lost.


Phil Tournor, CPE

Certification Committee

Tags:  certification 

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