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This course, Construction Management 410, covers bid estimating from the standpoint of a general contractor (GC). It is the second of the construction management courses leading to the UW Certificate in Construction Management. In this course, you will learn how to develop an estimate to be used for the competitive bidding of projects. The course objective is to supply you with estimating skills you can use to begin or enhance your career within the construction industry. While there are many types of estimates, the competitive bid is fundamental; it is how most construction contracts are awarded (although there is a trend to incorporate factors other than price into the evaluation criteria.) You can apply the techniques you learn in this course to most of the other types of estimates used by the construction industry.
Most of your interaction with your instructor and classmates will occur through the Internet. It is thus important that you have computer skills and are comfortable with working on the Internet. You will be expected to complete reading and written assignments, work through practice exercises, participate in online discussions, and complete a Course Project.
These online materials are designed as a supplement to the course text. There are various procedures for developing an estimate, depending on the prevailing practice in a particular region of the country. This course is designed primarily for estimating as it is practiced in the Pacific Northwest. While methods vary, the principles are universal, and these procedures can easily be adapted from one region of the country to another.
By the end of this course, you will be able to
Skills You Need to Complete This Course
Two prerequisites are listed for this course: knowledge of construction methods and materials, and the ability to read blueprints and specification documents. An estimator who lacks either or both of these skills cannot become an effective bid estimator. If you are lacking in these skills, you should find a way to acquire them before taking this course. Our time is limited, and will not allow us to teach or review these prerequisites.
How This Course is Organized
This course is organized into eight lessons. Each includes reading assignments, commentary on the readings, online discussion assignments, practice exercises, and written assignments.
The bulk of the work for these lessons and the class in general will focus on the Course Project, for which you and each of your classmates will prepare and submit a bid. The course has been developed (as much as is possible in an academic setting) to model the process of competitive bidding in the construction industry.
A Late Bid = No Bid
The most vital thing you should learn from this class is the importance of tendering bids on time. This will be a reoccurring theme though out this course. In the construction industry late bids just don't count.
The first seven lessons concentrate on the techniques of developing an estimate. The final lesson provides preparation for Bid Day—the last day of class, where you will submit your proposal for the Course Project. In each lesson you will complete reading assignments, online discussion assignments, practice exercises, and homework assignments. Each lesson requires two weeks to complete. For most of the assignments, you will submit portions of your estimate.
The Course, the Certificate Program, and the Course Project
You will spend a lot of time in the Certificate Program with the Course Project. After you complete this course, you will go on to plan the project, schedule it, and manage it to its hypothetical completion in the rest of the courses of the Construction Management Certificate Program.
The Course Project
The Course Project is the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Station (ARFF) which was recently constructed at the Snohomish County Airport in Everett Washington. This airport is also known locally as Paine Field. Our project consists of a 13,884 sf single story building which is utilized to house and maintain emergency rescue equipment for the airport. The structural elements of this building include the use of conventional footings and foundation walls with a slab on grade. The vertical elements of this building are constructed with a combination of wood and steel framing. In conjunction with the new building, there is approximately 100,000sf of site improvements being done, which include site demolition, earthwork, utilities, asphalt paving and site concrete.
Focus on Terminology
A general contractor is not usually a person. It is a company or a firm engaged in the business of organizing and completing a construction project on behalf of an owner.
Most of the construction work done today is residential and commercial projects. The Course Project is a commercial project which actually uses more of a residential type of construction. As we proceed through the course, we will point out the similarities of some of the work items used in both commercial and residential construction, and how residential work and bids might be handled. Heavy industrial and heavy construction projects, such as roads and dams, are different altogether, due to the very large quantities used, special equipment, and work items required. These are not a part of the UW Certificate in Construction Management curriculum.
Your Work on the Course Project
You and your peers will develop and submit a competitive bid as if each of you were a general contractor who self-performs certain work and subcontracts the remainder. You will thus learn detailed estimating of direct (self-performed) work and order-of-magnitude estimating of subcontractor work. In addition, you will go through the process of receiving the subcontract bids, finalizing your estimate and tendering your bid under pressure of time, as it is done in the real world of competitive bidding.
You will estimate the Course Project individually. We will focus on the basic techniques required to complete an estimate including organization, performing quantity take-offs, recapitulating, summarizing the work, and developing markups leading to the completion and tendering of the bid.
A Late Bid = No Bid
A significant part of the course involves learning how to solicit and field subcontract bids. You will not actually be soliciting subcontractor bids—you will receive them from me, your instructor, and I will issue most of these subcontractor bids during the last week of the class. Given that we must exchange all this information electronically, we cannot accurately replicate an actual Bid Day "crunch" situation where you get some bids within minutes of the submittal deadline. Still, if you are not fully organized, this will cause you to experience intense pressure—and could possibly cause you to miss your bid deadline. A missed deadline means the contractor loses any chance of being considered for the work.
You will need to clear your calendar in preparation for Bid Day and arrange your communications (that is, your e-mail or fax) so that they will be available and reliable when it is time to submit your bid. See Lesson 8 for more on Bid Day.
What You Need to Do to Complete This Course
To complete this course you must do the following:
Be sure to see the course schedule for specific due dates of all assignments.
See the course schedule for the specific due dates of all assignments.
I want to emphasize timeliness again: a late bid equals no bid! In the construction industry, if you're late, you don't get paid. In this course, your grade will suffer if your assignments are late; and a late bid will be disqualified!
Your bid must be in on time to be considered!
The Textbooks and Online Materials Appendices
The Course Texts
Two books are required for the estimating course. These are
We will use Means will primarily as a reference book. Familiarize yourself with the instructions for using the book and the various sections that make up the complete manual.
Throughout this course these texts will be referred to as Cost Estimating and Means. You can obtain them from the University of Washington Book Store (http://www.bookstore.washington.edu/), or other online book stores. You can order the Means reference directly from R.S. Means Company (http://www.rsmeans.com/ or 1-800-334-3509).
The texts for this course are the basis for learning estimating techniques. These online materials are intended to supplement the text. Bear in mind that estimating techniques vary from place to place and from company to company. My intention in this course is to teach what is basic to the estimating process. When you've completed this course, you should be able to quickly adapt to the methods at your place of employment.
Use the forms you will find in Appendix A. No forms other than those in Appendix A will be accepted in this course.
The text uses forms from a computerized estimating program. Since this is a manual estimating course, we will be using forms that are relatively standard for the construction industry and are readily adaptable to electronic spreadsheets. All forms to be used are included in Appendix A. In addition, they are available for downloading through the course forum. Check all downloaded spreadsheets before using them, to verify that the formulas are correct. No forms other than those in Appendix A will be accepted in this course.
Means Building Construction Cost Data is also listed as a text for this course. This is a reference book rather than a text. You will learn how to use it for determining productivity factors and pricing. Means is probably the most used reference book in the construction industry. Lesson 1 includes is a list of other references available to the estimator.
Throughout this course I will refer to several other R. S. Means references. You are not required to purchase them. If you want to use them, you can generally find them in libraries or bookstores. When I refer to a R. S. Means reference, the word Means in italics will refer only to the Means Building Construction Cost Data (current issue) while references to any of their other books will be spelled out in full.
Additional Required Materials
In addition to these online materials and the required texts, you will need a computer for e-mail and Web access using a graphical browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator). See your certificate program student handbook for minimum platform requirements.
You will also need the following:
The following materials are not required but may be helpful in completing this course.
The drawing software can be useful for sketching some of the items being estimated and pasting them into a spreadsheet. This gives others a clear picture of what is being estimated.
Online Materials Appendices and Glossary
Your online course materials include four appendices. These contain useful forms and information for use in your training as an estimator, and later on in your career. Throughout the course, I will refer specifically to pertinent material from the appendices; other items will not be mentioned. I recommend you look through all appendices to see what is there and evaluate how it might help you in this course and beyond. The course also includes a glossary of all the key terms listed in the individual lessons.
A Note on Building Codes
For many years there were several building codes used throughout the country. In 2000 these were consolidated into a single code, the International Building Code. This consolidation allowed for a "uniform" set of building requirements in all 50 states. You are not required to purchase any building code for this class.
What Are the Assignments Like?
You will encounter four types of assignments in this course: reading assignments, online discussion assignments, practice exercises, and specific written assignments described at the end of each lesson. Some of the assignments will be drawn from the textbook.
Lesson reading assignments appear at the beginning of each lesson. In addition to the reading assignments in the text, you will be asked to review certain subdivisions in the Means reference. You don't need to read every line item of each subdivision, however. Just look at them, and know generally what is in each one. This will help you to determine the proper units to use for quantifying, as well as familiarize yourself with where you can find productivity and pricing figures.
Online Discussion Assignments
You will participate in four required online discussions for this course, for which the class will have a topic to discuss or question to answer. (The topics and questions are included in the course.) You are required to post a comment or to answer these questions—or post a comment to another student's response. Most discussions require a minimum of one posting. Some require a minimum of two. I encourage you to make more than the minimum, and develop a dialogue with your classmates. The discussions' purpose is to promote an exchange of ideas similar to what you would get in a classroom setting. You may already be involved in the construction industry, and have specific knowledge about certain items. Your postings can help others to learn, and others' responses may bring you fresh insights into how to get things done.
I will review the online postings to see if you are responding as required and for the quality of your response. The online discussion is meant to be a place where students help each other, and I will base the quality of response grades on how helpful postings are. Ideally, at the end of the posting period you and your classmates should have developed a definite answer (or series of answers) about the specific topic. If you don't respond, you may still learn from others, but your lack of effort will be detrimental to your grade.
Practice exercises, like the review questions in the textbook, are included in the course for you to work through, to make sure you understand particular concepts. If you have trouble with the exercises, contact your instructor. With the exception of Practice Exercise 1, these are not graded and need not be turned in. This does not mean you don't have to do the other practice exercises, though. Considering the time, money and effort you will apply to this course, you owe it to yourself to work through them. Your understanding of and proficiency in estimating is based on continuous practice—which these exercises help provide—and you will value every bit of proficiency you can muster when it comes to the final hectic countdown on Bid Day.
There are two written assignments per lesson. The course schedule tells you when each assignment is due. For most of your written assignments, you will submit specific portions of your estimate. These will be supplemented with some additional assignments to help you learn specific points of estimating. Because estimating is a procedure that is subject to an estimator's interpretation of the work, there are no absolute right or wrong answers. The assignments will be checked for procedures, neatness, and to see if someone else (that is, me, representing the industry's perspective) can understand what you are doing. If your procedures are correct, you should be able to submit a comprehensive, accurate proposal on Bid Day that, if selected, would allow your company to make the estimated profit.
The written assignments and online discussion assignments are designed both to help you learn and to demonstrate your understanding of the principles being taught in this course. They will not cover all the work required to complete your bid estimates (and in fact will cover less than half of it). There is no timetable, beyond what you yourself schedule, for completing those parts of the work that are not specifically assigned to be turned in. Estimators, by the nature of the work, have to be motivated, determined self-starters, and they know that there is no excuse for not submitting a bid. Bids submitted late or incomplete are treated as non-responsive.
The specific project grading criteria are explained in detail in Lesson 8.
I suppose if we were following industry bid practices strictly, there would be one A among the students in this course (the winning bidder) and the rest would be Fs. Your instructor won't be nearly as strict as that, but will calculate the average of all the bids received. Your bid and your classmates' bids will have to be within a given range of this average to be acceptable. In general, the lowest bid within this range will be the winning bidder and receive the best grade. Other bidders will be graduated downward the farther away they are from the low bid. All bids received within the acceptable range will receive passing grades on the project component of your course grade. See Lesson 8 for the specific project grading criteria.
We will follow industry practice strictly in one regard. In your role as a contractor bidding the Course Project, you must submit your bid in accordance with the bid documents, and you must submit it on or before the required bid time in order to have it graded.
Your other work in this course is also a factor in determining your final grade for the course. Just being the high bidder (within the acceptable range) doesn't mean you will receive a subpar grade. Participation in online discussions, assignments, and how well your bid is organized will be significant considerations.
Five situations will be cause for bid disqualification. These are:
With the number of students bidding, I expect some bids to be relatively close to each other, and I have seen this happen in the industry. If all students are doing their own work and submitting the bids honestly, then I don't anticipate a problem with collusion. Low-ball bids are of questionable ethics, because the bidder is knowingly leaving something out, and will fight for the costs to be added later on through a change order. Very high bids usually represent an error—and error prevention is something we will emphasize throughout this course.
An Improper Bid =
Bids shall be accepted only when submitted according to the "Instruction to Bidders" in the project bid documents. It is imperative that you explicitly follow these instructions. If you have questions or confusion about them, make sure to get them addressed as early as possible. Failure to follow the instructions can be cause for disqualification of your bid, thus affecting your grade. This is a corollary to our theme for this course: Be on time! A contractor whose bid is disqualified has reduced the chances of winning to zero.
This course uses the following standards developed by the Department of Construction Management at the University of Washington for assigning grades in this course.
Let your instructor know how you want your assignment grades returned to you. Privacy rules require that the final grades be sent to you by mail from the UW Extension.
Grading versus Learning
Although your achievement in this course is measured with a grade at the end, do not lose sight of the fact that your underlying objective is to learn industry practices you can apply in furthering your career. You could use only your short-term memory, and focus your goal on getting a high grade for your transcript; you will get more out of the course, however, if you fully learn the skills that are presented. You will be better prepared to work in the construction industry if you fully understand the subjects taught in the construction management series.
Sharing Your Expertise: Extra Credit
I recognize that you and your classmates may have expertise in various fields of construction. I encourage you, via extra credit, to share your expertise by posting to the course forum a one- to two-page document on your particular specialty. For example, a carpenter may want to post a document on details of framing a structure; someone else might want to discuss lumber grading. Other topics could include (but are not be limited to) evaluating bids, certain design aspects of a structure, preparing for inspections, or legal aspects applied to construction. All topics must be related to the construction industry, and should be presented to stimulate the interest of your fellow students.
Up to two postings will be accepted for extra credit; you may make more, however, if you feel that a particular subject may be of interest. Each posting can contribute up to 2.5 points to your grade for a maximum of 5 points, depending on the subject and quality.
I want you to do the work for this course by hand. You may use a computer for spreadsheets and word processing, but estimating software and databases are not allowed. The purpose of this course is to teach you the details of estimating, including calculations and summarizing, so you will fully understand the process. You will not fully grasp these underlying details if you rely on a pre-packaged estimating environment. I expect you to manually enter information (either by hand or on a computer) into your forms and spreadsheet, and extend and/or check extensions with a calculator. In addition, you will learn how to develop unit prices to be used as a general check of your work, to make sure it is within an expected range. Computers are a convenience to improve efficiency; but if you don't check on them properly, errors can occur that could cause large losses in a project. Smaller contractors could thus experience unbearable liabilities, which would tarnish or destroy their estimator's reputation.
Estimating is the foundation of all projects, so this course is the foundation of the construction management course series. You will use information you create in this course in CM 411 (Planning and Scheduling) and CM 421 (Project Management). I encourage you to do your best in completing this estimating course, so you will have a good basis of information to use in the remaining courses of this series.
The distance learning Construction Management Program takes advantage of current electronic technology for communication. This technology is based around the Internet and e-mail. Supplemental technology such as faxes and telephones are additional means of available communication.
You are encouraged to use the electronic communications tools to exchange ideas and information with each other as well as with your instructor.
They are powerful and their use is increasing rapidly in our society—including the construction industry.
The preferred method of communication for this course is the Internet—that is, e-mail and the course forum. Methods and procedures for using these tools to communicate with your instructors and each other are outlined in your student handbook and the course introduction.
I encourage you to use e-mail and the course forum as much as possible. Since this is a distance learning course, you will not have the benefit of listening to a lecture and asking questions on the spot. A lot of learning can be accomplished through an exchange of thoughts with each other and with your instructor.
Remember that this course covers the basic skills of construction estimating from a general contractor's viewpoint. Not every aspect of the subject can be covered. Our intent, however, is to help you learn the basic skills that will enable you to more easily estimate those items not specifically taught in this course. The following study tips may be helpful.
Contacting the Architect, Subcontractor, and Suppliers
Do not contact the owner or architect for the projects used in this course!
Do not solicit pricing from any subcontractors or major suppliers for your bids.
Part of this course discusses how you solicit information from the owner or architect. In the real world these people are in the business of making money, and the intensity of competition does not allow them to address issues that do not have a profit potential. They therefore prefer not to use up their time addressing concerns of students taking an estimating course. Please do not contact the owner or architect of the Course Project.
Similarly, you will learn how to contact subcontractors and major material suppliers to solicit bids for their work. Subcontractors typically have questions about the bid that you will need to answer for them to supply a price. You will learn how to get this information and forward it to the subcontractor. Again, subcontractors and suppliers are continually very busy bidding and performing work, and do not have the time to work with students. Your instructor will give you subcontractor and major supplier bids on or before Bid Day.
As part of the estimating procedures you also will need to research pricing on various materials that can be purchased in local hardware and building supply stores. You will do this by either checking newspaper ads or going to one of these stores and finding out these prices. If this is not an option for you, you will use pricing indicated in estimating references.
I repeat: Do not contact the owner or architect for the project used in this course. Also, do not solicit pricing from any subcontractors or major suppliers for your bids.
The Estimator's Personal Notebook
One of the keys to maximizing your experience as an estimator is to have historical data as well as other needed information at hand for a ready reference. Years ago, I established several notebooks in which I maintained information that was not easily obtainable from other sources. The notebooks also served as a handy place to keep the more common information. I started out keeping simple conversions, such as board feet per lineal feet tables. As I got involved in heavy industrial projects, I found such things as a good formulation to calculate welding man-hours. On one project, I had to estimate the field installation of 8-foot diameter steel pipe. I called a friend of mine in the business, and he supplied me with the necessary information, which I recorded and stored in my notebook.
I kept a series of notebooks in which I maintained the summary sheets of estimates I made, complete with the bid results and my assessment of why I won or lost the bid. I was usually able to find out whether the winning bidder made or lost money, and in some cases, how much was lost. I would note this on my assessment page. I also kept the final cost report on all of my successfully bid projects.
I encourage you to start your first estimator's personal notebook during this course. You may find things such as waste factor calculations, conversion information, and other useful information to keep in your notebook. What you keep in your notebook will differ from what someone else keeps. The point is to develop a handy reference for information that may be less accessible elsewhere. From time to time in this course, you will be doing exercises or run across pertinent information that I will recommend you put into your notebook. While this is not a course requirement, I feel that your personal estimator's notebook is an item that will enhance your career.
If you desire to keep information on a computer or other electronic storage media, I encourage you to also keep a hard copy in your notebook. Computers can crash and data can be lost. The hard copy in your notebook is also usually the fastest to refer to.
I also encourage you to make a course notebook that will include all pertinent information from this series of construction management courses. Its purpose is threefold. First, you'll use the work you do in this estimating course for CM 411 (Project Planning and Scheduling) and for CM 421 (Project Management). Storing pertinent information in your course notebook will provide a handy reference for those courses. Second, the course notebook serves as a reference to use in your career of estimating and project management. Third, the notebook can be used as a portfolio if you plan to apply for a job as an estimator or project manager. Your first items under the tab of "estimating" would be the estimate done in this course. By setting up tabs for each course, you will then add pertinent information and the work done for each of them. When you get through, you will have a complete notebook that you can refer to or exhibit to prospective employers.
About the Course Developer: Dennis Griffin
This course was originally prepared by a man named Dennis Griffin. Dennis was a mechanical engineer by trade and owned his own construction management firm. There have been modifications to Dennis's original publication over the years, but you will still note several references to some of his personal experiences. These have been left in, as they are insightful and provide additional information to consider as you go through the lessons.
Who Are You?
Because this is a distance learning course in which there is little direct contact between the instructor and the students or between students, a little information about you would be helpful to both your instructor and your colleagues. You are encouraged to exchange business information with other students. You can describe yourself and your work to your classmates by updating your Moodle Profile.
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