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The Idea of Student Chapters

Posted By Dave Garman, Monday, October 22, 2018

A hot topic and major concern that everyone seems to be facing these days is how do we get more of today’s current younger generation interested in becoming estimators and also interested in becoming members of ASPE.  When I reflect back to my college days, I never had any interest or intention of becoming and estimator after graduation.  I had to take a couple of estimating classes in college to fulfill my requirements for my degree, but that was really my only exposure to estimating. 


My total exposure as a young man was two classes in college, and I never intended or planned on estimating becoming my life career.  My first job after college graduation changed all that.  On my first day of work, my boss announced that there had been a change in plans and they needed me to work in their estimating department in lieu of working as an assistant project manager. I was shocked and dismayed at that time but immediately grew to like and enjoy estimating, making it my lifelong career. 


When I was in college as a young man, I joined and was active with all the student construction organizations on my college campus.  I was a member of the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) Student Chapter.  I was a member of the ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) Student Chapter.  I was a member of the AGC (Associated General Contractors) Student Chapter.  I was a member of the Habitat for Humanity Student Chapter.  The student chapters of these organizations had faculty advisors who would oversee the chapters.  Each chapter had students who wanted to be board members of the chapter and were elected by fellow student members, just as we do in our ASPE chapters.  We had chapter meetings with guest speakers and attended annual National Conventions for each organization. 


As a young college student, I really enjoyed being a member of the organizations’ Student Chapters.  I went to National conventions and met all sorts of people in the construction industry. It was a great opportunity to distribute your resume for internships and job opportunities with potential employers. 


Just today, I viewed their website; and the NAHB Student Chapters identifies 4,120 student members located in colleges throughout the United States. I think ASPE should consider contacting college faculty who teach estimating at colleges throughout the United States to see if there is an interest in starting up ASPE Student Chapters.  Many colleges, including my Alma Mater, don’t have a current ASPE Chapter nearby their campus. Even colleges with adjacent ASPE Chapters are probably not attracting young college students because the ASPE Chapter is composed of older adults and is located off the college campus.  If Student Chapters on college campuses were available, it would expose the younger generation to estimating as a potential career after college. 


As a member of the NAHB Student Chapter, the National organization would have an annual estimating contest for all the college NAHB Student Chapters. The NAHB Student Chapters would present their estimates to judges at the NAHB National Convention each year and the overall winner would receive a trophy as National Estimating Champion.  Runners up in second and third place would also receive prizes such as free estimating software.


As I reflect back on these past events as a young college student, I think that the creation of ASPE Student Chapters in Colleges throughout the United States would be a great way to encourage the current younger generation interested in becoming estimators and becoming members of ASPE.


Does anyone else have a similar experience to share?  How valuable was the experience to you?


Dave Garman, CPE

Standards Committee

Tags:  standards 

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Been there, done that; but they don’t have the T Shirt? Hmmmmm …

Posted By Brian Wright, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Multiple projects I have been associated with have gone through a consultant hiring process before I was involved. Often an institutions network has chosen the consultant or engineer, and they have completed a schematic and catalog submittal package when I am brought in to perform pre-construction management. An easy filter is to ask is where have you designed and installed this before and, a secondary back-check is, who furnished the material whether it be a pump, HVAC or any material supplier. The quick verification is did it work, was that the best material for this project, and did the supplier have a success story, is vetted along with the quantity survey, scope gaps and a cost estimate to see if everything lines up.


When things do not line up is where good pre-construction managers straighten projects out before funds are committed and expenses begin to increase, as well as precious time passes by.


In one case, a Lift Station repeatedly failed due to its original design; and the subsequent design had most of the same flaws.  [Two (2) mechanical designers indicated HVAC experience but they had never designed a lift station = no t-shirt.]  Experience as an engineer and a call to the largest Lift Station pump supplier verified both designs were less than optimal and supported why it kept failing. A third designer that used the higher quality correct type and size pumps was hired, and it performed flawlessly for years.


Recently I audited an HVAC controls design that had the same flaw I had seen before. Simply stated, it would not have worked without a change order and re-design.


Involve your Pre Construction Manager early as selecting the correct team is part of Pre Construction. Best cost?   Identify the people that have the t-shirt that fits your Project from day 1.


Brian Wright, CPE

Chair, Education Committee

Tags:  education 

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Estimating and Mentoring: Teaching the Basics

Posted By Heather Boulanger, Wednesday, October 10, 2018


One of the many challenges of working for a specialty subcontractor is identifying people to fill the spots in estimating that need filling. 


Never mind that there are no college degrees in estimating; maybe a project management course will teach some estimating, but there are no college courses that teach our scopes of work.


We often don’t even consider college students, but rather we look for a candidate who is intelligent, willing to learn, and can work on their own without constant supervision.  Many times, it has been someone with little or no computer skills.


We then invest considerable time teaching them the following estimating practices.

1.       How to read blueprints, looking for details that will show us what we need or what will hang us. 

2.       How to understand Building Codes.

3.       The different products we apply and the UL designs that they use.

4.       How to use the many different software programs that we utilize.

5.       The skills needed to write letters and emails so that they may intelligently communicate to customers and manufacturers.


All of this just to add one estimator to the staff.  But a worthy investment of our time.


Heather Boulanger, CPE

Education Committee

Tags:  education 

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Spreadsheets are Wasting Time

Posted By Jay Kellogg, Monday, October 8, 2018

Spreadsheets are Wasting Time


One of the speakers at our Summit in Pittsburgh stated that spreadsheets are a huge waste of time.  I love Excel and think I can build some elaborate spreadsheets. So naturally, I was initially offended at this statement. As the discussion continued, I realized that there was truth to what was being said.


Spreadsheets are great at single-use tasks, but they falter when trying to integrate them into sophisticated processes like comparing estimates with old estimates and comparing estimates with historical costs. As our company evolves, we are trying to develop more systems that share data and rely less upon spreadsheets for maintaining core data.


Is your company having success using spreadsheets for these tasks or are you moving to other software?


Jay Kellogg, CPE

Standards Committee

Tags:  standards 

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LED Lighting and Building Automated Controls

Posted By Brian Wright, Wednesday, October 3, 2018

As Building Owners and Architectural packages rush to include the great energy savings obtained from LED lighting and computer controls, even including each Employees personal control through their Smart Phone App, a few common issues are present.


Controls:  LED lights are perceived to be brighter and require both Dimming and Temperature [Blue light vs Yellow hues] to please the users. Installations show employees are dimming the lights lower than engineers expected, thus making dimming capability a must.


The want to implement the lowest cost / highest payback system results in fixture retrofits instead of fixture replacements that are not photo metrically engineered and can produce a perceived glare or hot spot.  Are a few dollars upfront worth lower employee productivity and arm wrestling the dimmer for years to come?


Controls, Wi-Fi ZigBee fixtures, where each fixture has its own individual address offer unlimited control and energy savings.  Pairing that up to an engineered controller is required for both maximum savings and employee comfort.  Studies show building automation increases employee productivity for the life of the building.  Add that to the payback equation, and proper engineering results in a successful project.

Stay on the leading edge and run from the bleeding edge mistakes.


Brian Wright, CPE

Education Committee Chair


Tags:  education 

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Invitation to Bid

Posted By Rick Cormier, Monday, October 1, 2018

Estimating technology has come a long way and in many different formats.  Today I want to discuss the progression of the Invitation to Bid (ITB).  Prior to the internet, the phone/fax machine were the technology of choice.  I cannot fathom the amount of time required to make calls and/or sending faxes to a minimum (3) sub-contractors per trade.  I image that would make for an all-day event. 


Sending ITB became more efficient as the internet gained popularity.  Email became the mode of communication, allowing the bidder to create distribution lists for each project.  This process freed-up time and created an electronic paper trail.  The resulting concern with this method was managing the distribution lists.  Subcontractors would communicate their intent to bid or not bid a project, and it was then necessary to note their preference on the project distribution list.  If this was not managed properly, often times you would receive not so friendly phone calls from annoyed subcontractors.


Today we have web based ITB that allows the estimator to be more efficient with this process.  Systems like SmartBid, Procore and Building Connected streamline this process and allows subcontractors to confirm interest or not.  These systems also allow the estimator to use reports for bid interest, keep bidding documents centrally located and for quicker distribution of updated information and addenda. 


I have used SmartBid, Procore and am currently using Building Connected, which I really like.  Bid packages with tags are created that simplify the selection process, while allowing you to create bid forms for subcontractors to use and fill out the listed scope items. 


Which systems do you use or really like?


Rick Cormier

Standards Committee

Tags:  standards 

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Estimate Out The Door

Posted By Phil Tournor, Friday, September 28, 2018


Does it feel like it takes a lot longer to get a job out the door than it did say 10-15 years ago?   


I am finding that, due to arrival of electronic documents, there is added task of downloading and managing documents during a bid period.  Speaking as a subcontractor, this aspect is another step that absorbs minutes from an increasingly time-strapped day.   Then you add the fact that if you are bidding several general contractors, it becomes an even longer process, as you need to verify the docs they have are the same ones everybody else is using.   


Second, you find that your counterparts on the other side of the phone and/or computer are often not an estimator but instead are young construction professionals without experience or an estimating mindset.  This then requires additional time spent walking through your scope, why you are not picking up certain items, discussing your exclusions, and talking about the job in general.  In some instances, you might find yourself going to several meetings that take away from your time doing takeoff and estimating.   You may also find that fewer project managers at your company have an estimating background, thus requiring you to review drawing changes that should be done on the operations end.  


Now back to the job itself, you determine that information is missing, so you then invest time in asking questions.  You have to be careful to whom you submit those questions, because some contractors are pretty good at forwarding to the design team and many do not and try to work through those themselves, which sometimes places you back to square one.  Add that with receipt of an addendum sent out hours before the bid and the new format design teams now use (the infamous Q&A spreadsheet) where half the time important questions remain unanswered.


Once the details are resolved, it’s past 5:00 pm (the day before the bid).  You jump in your vehicle and arrive home, but have missed your son’s soccer practice.  As you begin preparing the takeoff on your home computer, you realize you’re doing something you vowed years ago you would never do:  work through the night preparing an estimate for a bid due the next day.  


Phillip C Tournor, CPE

Certification Committee

Tags:  certification 

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Posted By Deanne Goodlaxson, Wednesday, September 26, 2018



I have only lost track of a couple of my mentors.  I have written a sympathy card to the widow of one of my mentors.  Another of my mentors has passed, and I intend to reach out to his wife on his Birthday.   My latest mentor recently retired; and I do check in occasionally, to see if he’s missing the estimating world.  I am not worried as he still gets a flavor for it as his son is an estimator of which I have mentored and is a fellow ASPE member in my Chapter.


Is there a trend here?  Mentoring creates an unforgettable bond between the mentor and mentee.  I can name each of the persons that mentored me and list their influences.  Even if we lose track of the mentor, the mentorship is never forgotten.  Mentors are more influential than college professors.  Of course, we need the basic training to be ready to be mentored; but after that, it is the mentors in our lives that shape the estimator we become.  Mentors come in all shapes and sizes.  Some may influence our organizational skills, some may provide the guidance into just one area we needed training in, some may provide us with the spreadsheet we live and breath by, others may have suffered through and answered the many questions we had as we learned to cipher plans.


·         Were you mentored by your boss? 

·         By someone outside of your firm? 

·         What are your most memorable mentoring experiences? 

·         Do you feel strongly enough about mentoring to do it yourself? 

·         Would you only be interested in mentoring the next in line at your firm? 

·         Does working with someone from differing backgrounds interest you?  Maybe someone that could teach you about the newest technological trends in estimating? 

·         What would make you want to give back to the next generation of estimators? 

·         Do you feel being mentored is as much or more important than a college class in estimating? 

·         What were key items that made your mentorship successful? 

·         Did you go through an organized mentorship program? 

o   If so, could you share the process?

o   Was it a seasoned co-worker that just took you under their wing and walked you through the processes? 

o   What were the important steps in that process?


We know many estimators are out there working without immediate resources for mentorship.  As the American Society of Professional Estimators works to develop a professional mentorship program, we are interested in hearing from those that are in the trenches to create the best process possible.  Please help us by answering these questions so we can determine what processes and methods work.


Let the mentorship blog begin…….


Deanne Goodlaxson, CPE

Education Committee


Tags:  education 

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Cost + Productivity Data

Posted By Robert Klein, Friday, September 21, 2018

I am a construction consultant and specialize in forensic investigations of construction defects, and I’ve been doing this for the past 12 years.  Previously, I spent 20 years as a general contractor and performed all of my own estimating. Today, I apply my skills to estimate the cost of remediation of defective construction and there seems to be no shortage of work here in NY/NJ.  As I am not employed by a contractor and have limited access to historical data, I rely on commercially available cost data.


Fortunately, many in the legal community with whom I interact on these cases will accept “canned” productivity and cost data.  Since I know how to put a nut and a bolt together, I have been able to get by just fine and my estimates are accurate.  


Anyone else do something like this or have comments on the use of “book” cost and productivity data?



Robert C. Klein, CPE

Certification Committee

Tags:  certification 

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It begins with Estimating

Posted By Dave Garman, Monday, September 17, 2018

I believe and tell everyone that the success of a company begins in Estimating. An estimator needs to put together an estimate that is low enough to beat the competition but high enough to produce a profit for the company.  If an estimate is too low, then the company either breaks even or loses money on the project. If the estimate is too high, then the project dies because the owner cannot afford it, or a competitor is awarded the project due to the lower number. 


The challenge for the estimator is to have the right estimate number that beats the competition, is within the owner’s budget and provides a profit for the company. 


Dave Garman, CPE

Standards Committee

Tags:  standards 

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