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Knowing vs Understanding

Posted By Chris Ray, Friday, December 1, 2017

I had an interesting conversation with a client I have been working with for the past 20 or so years.  After providing him with a Conceptual Estimate and Proposal for a building, with no plans … with no specifications … the client, ”how can you put together a price for a building project without plans and specifications?”  A very good question.


After a few awkward moments of silence, I said, “I do have plans and specifications.  They come from my experience over the past 30+  years of reviewing and analyzing various projects. I just don’t have them formalized in a book or plan binder.”  That didn’t seem to satisfy his curiosity. “But how do you know what I want?” he stated rather emphatically.  Again, after a few moments of painful silence, I responded ”Well, I have been working with you since the mid-90’s; and I’ve got a good feeling of what you are looking for.”


He left it at that and seemed satisfied with my answer. But what I really meant to say, but not wanting to tip my hand, is that not only do I know what you want but I understand what you want.

It’s this understanding that really makes an estimating team standout. Everyone will eventually know what the client wants.  That’s called the plans and specifications. But do you understand, for example, why the customer is adamant about not having his roof ever leak?  Everyone wants a roof that doesn’t leak. But why is this client so fixed on having a 20-year warranty (which we all know will eventually leak), a 5-ply BUR, with coal-tar pitch, a full-time independent inspector during installation, continuous video of all installation activities on the roof, and a 24 hour flood test?  Well, I know why.


I guess a big problem too many people have is that they think they know the answer, when in fact they need to understand the answer.


Chris Ray, CPE
National Education Committee

Tags:  education 

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Missing Direction

Posted By Ken Horner, Wednesday, November 29, 2017


While bidding a job last week for a large movie theater that had only partial design on the fire alarm system, I noted on the architectural drawing that the design should be by the fire alarm contractor / EC. Nothing to reference this on the electrical drawings. I then called one of the general contractors, and he said to bid what was on the drawings.


I told him about the note.  The conclusion we both arrived at was to list it as an add to base bid for a code compliant system with a description of what was needed to make it a complaint system.


Would you have handled it differently ?



Ken Horner

Certification Committee

Tags:  certification 

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Regions & Benchmarkings

Posted By Eric Ross, Monday, November 27, 2017

To remain competitive, companies may need to expand their service areas.  Some companies are fortunate to have clients that want to build project outside their local region, and this is a testimony that the company is worth using over and over again.  Others look outside their local region, state or country. 


As companies expand to other regions, what resources do they use for benchmarking?



Eric A. Ross, PE, CPE

Standards Committee

Tags:  standards 

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Posted By Bryan Mixer, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Does anyone still use formulas?  Or do we just put variables into a computer program and let it kick out an answer?  

When I was freshman in high school, I was taught quadratic equations.  I am not sure that I ever really learned them.  
One Sunday afternoon my dad wanted me to help him do something, and found me at the dining room table with my algebra book doing the homework.  As I labored over the problem, going step by step, using half a sheet of paper and twenty minutes to solve one equation, my dad leaned over my shoulder and bellowed "It's SIX!  Look at it, it's OBVIOUSLY six!"  That was the last time my dad (an engineer at John Deere who majored in both math and physics) was allowed to "oversee" my math homework.

How many of us who have "a bit of experience" today look at the interns and want to say "it's six, just look at it!"  I know that I have, and on more than one occasion.  So where does the problem begin, and where do we solve it?  

My first thought is that the students should be taught on paper, with a pencil:  how to do takeoffs, how to use a formula, which formula to use at which time, all before they touch the computer system.  Until you know the basics, you can't possibly know the advanced.  I hope I do not sound like the angry old neighbor yelling at the kids to get off their lawn; but we, as a Society, need to find a solution before there is no one left who remembers "Length times Width times Height divide by 27."


Any ideas you want to share about your successes in this area ?


Bryan Mixer, CPE

Standards Committee

Tags:  standards 

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Recommendations for Finding a 3-D Plan Reader Program

Posted By David Battle, Monday, November 20, 2017

Our firm is in the process of performing due diligence to find a good stand-alone BIM or Revit 3-D reader program, that will perform the task of supplying quantities in CSI order and downloaded into a spreadsheet format.


There are several integrated estimating programs we have seen on the market.  Since we work with a wide variety of client’s:  Architect’s, CM’s, Owner’s, Attorney’s to name a few, it forces us to provide customized/tailored information that can, for the most part, be accomplished with spreadsheets.


Does anyone have recommendations of a stand-alone product, that somewhat operates in the same fashion as Planswift or On-Center take-off products, in performing 3-D takeoff?    



David Battle, FCPE

Certification Committee

Tags:  certification 

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How You Use VR

Posted By Peter Hamilton, Friday, November 17, 2017


Estimators always talk about being able to build the project multiple in our minds through our 2D paper takeoffs, but it proves difficult to display and explain visually to others.  Not long ago, 3D software came along; and we were able to do our take-offs and display clearly the built elements on a screen to others.  Now we can put on a set of goggles and stand in that built environment and better identify coordination issues and visually see those 2D pages come to life.  


How are you implementing Virtual or Augmented Reality into your estimating workflow?  


How do you think estimators can integrate VR and AR into their workflow to produce a better product?



Peter Hamilton, CPE

Education Committee

Tags:  education 

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Importance of Having a Certified Professional Estimator (CPE)

Posted By David Battle, Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Certification provides credibility and reliability to any product produced, and our life safety depends on many of them.  Examples in our everyday lives of relying on certified individuals in the workplace providing safe dependable products are airline pilots, structural bridge engineers, and medical professionals, to mention a few.  Certified Professional Estimators providing reliable information offer extra trust to decision makers who have responsibility for financial decisions on construction projects and extra confidence of having Certified Estimator on their team.



Estimating skills and trust go “hand in hand,” both can take years to obtain, yet trust can be lost in seconds.  The trust for the Estimator after making an error can take years to earn back.  Life has issues of unfortunate mistakes, accidents and failures. The minimization of these troubles can be achieved by the utilization of properly trained and certified individuals. Even though having a Certified Professional Estimator does not guarantee a non-mistake environment, it can certainly minimize the risk of having errors and gives confidence of a qualified cost to any project.



David Battle, FCPE

Certification Committee   

Tags:  certification 

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Posted By Bryan Mixer, Monday, November 13, 2017

Smart phones are making people more stupid. And yes, I understand the irony of having to say it that way so that the same people will be able to understand it.


I would love to see a study performed that charts how much a project went over budget plotted against how much the owner made the designer cut their fee.  Any guesses as to how steep the curve would get?


Don't architects and owners realize that football season has started?


Ever wondered how many electrons had to die for that last addenda?


I didn't grow up, so why am I growing old?  When did "30" become " young"?


If we can elect lawyers and actors, why can't we elect contractors and engineers?


Has anyone ever tried directing an unstoppable force at an immovable object?  Maybe they would fall in love. Or at least infatuation. 


If you want something done, ask someone who is too stupid to say no.


Why do restaurants turn down the lights right when they hand me my menu?


The USA, China and North Korea have somehow made Vladimir Putin look patient and wise.


Does anyone really believe that a hug when they were children would have changed Lord Voldermort or Darth Vader?


If movie studios are remaking old movies because they are out of new ideas, how long until someone tries to build "Empire State 2 - Even Konger"? 



Bryan Mixer

Standards Committee


Tags:  standards 

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Leading edge technology or bleeding-edge new material technology?

Posted By Brian Wright, Friday, November 10, 2017

As a Certified Estimator, Mechanical Engineer, and a Senior Project Manager with 33 years of experience, I am often requested to evaluate new material technology. The criteria expected are normally the new products expected lifespan, a hopeful payback in under 2 years for a premium cost and or cost additions for that new technology that gives the client a superior product, and/or a competitive edge.

One assignment that I was appointed to for several years that provided me with a unique design process insight was an Automobile proving ground.  We would work with cutting edge engineers who designed new components and also entire cars and then run the component and vehicles through a 100,000-mile test to proof the concept.  Normally that brought light on an area that needed refinement, and then another 100,000-mile test was completed to proof that change.  After running the vehicles and components through 2 million miles of iterative product improvement and testing, it was ready for production.

When I see a new product, the first thing I now search for is the field test that proofs the designer’s concept.  No matter how well thought out the Engineers design is, a field test will proof that concept. In most cases, a successful field run exists; and in some cases, it is still in the concept stages and little data exists.

I am usually either surprised that the new product has an amazing amount of successful data and has not received wide public acceptance by A&E firms or the other end of the spectrum, with little to no testing is completed. In hind-site, a field test may have missed the required criteria to proof the product for this clients intended use as well.

With the extensive knowledge a Certified Estimator brings to the initial conceptual A&E design meeting for any project, the value of that level of information we bring to the Design team in choosing materials that perform at an agreed cost and what that cost is, is priceless.  Have you decided to onboard a CPE to your design team?

Brian Wright
Education Committee Chairman

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What Does Certication Do For Me?

Posted By Joe Flemming, FCPE, Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The question is often asked, “What does certification do for me?” The answer is different for all of us.


I have heard others remark that their company offered a raise or a bonus to employees who earned certification. If you received a raise or a bonus, how much?


For me, I obtained certification because it was a goal I set for myself. I did not receive a specific CPE raise or bonus. But I wholeheartedly believe that part of the reason I am where I am today is because of my certification. What about you?

Joe Flemming, FCPE

Certification Committee Chairman

Tags:  certification 

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