Stephen Carr

Estimating Columnist

Stephen Carr has been in the electrical construction business since 1971. He started Carr Consulting Services—which provides electrical estimating and educational services—in 1994. Contact him at 805.523.1575 or

Articles by Stephen Carr

December 2016
I was recently reminded how important it is to be creative in today’s competitive bidding climate. One of my longtime clients called to let me know that the high-voltage switchgear at One Exchange Place in Jersey City, N.J., had finally been powered up. The road to this accomplishment had been long, with several detours.
November 2016
For branch takeoff, measuring all of those little lines can really be a pain in the neck. It’s time-consuming and mind-numbing, especially on large projects. What a drag. Sometimes I’d rather be cleaning toilets. If you haven’t already guessed, measuring branch is my least favorite part of performing a takeoff.
  • The old days

October 2016
You just spent a lot of time taking off a set of drawings and more time entering the takeoff into your estimating system. Now you can relax, wait for the quotes to come in, send your final price to the general contractors and win the job. Right? I don’t think so. Bidding is more competitive now than it has ever been in my career. It’s the time to fine-tune your estimates.
 The old days
September 2016
Some specifications are to be taken seriously. Here is one example: “It is the electrical contractor’s (EC’s) responsibility to examine the facility thoroughly for any conditions that may affect its bid. Failure to do so will not relieve the contractor’s responsibility to provide a complete and operable project.”
August 2016
Last month, I went over a brief history of California’s Title 24, Part 6, the current rules and what’s coming up. This month, let’s get more detailed about some of the current rules. In a nutshell, the rules are designed to reduce energy use in unoccupied areas, including offices, corridors, stairwells, library stacks, parking garages and other intermittently occupied areas. READ MORE
July 2016
California has long been known as an energy-conservation pioneer. To lead the way on electrical issues, the state uses a set of rules known as Title 24, Part 6, which is updated every three years. The current rules became mandatory for any project seeking a permit after July 1, 2014.
 Where it was
  • Playing with the big boys

June 2016
My first exposure to material pricing was in the mid-1970s when I was promoted to pricing clerk/assistant-purchasing agent at a wholesale house. My new desk was dominated by a 4-foot wide, metal-framed collection of pages called the Biddle Book, which was furnished by Trade Service Publications. The prices were updated weekly with new pages in a packet from Trade Service. READ MORE
May 2016
The other day, I saw an online discussion about using the labor units that come with computer estimating systems. The question was whether you should use the labor units as is. The simple answer is “maybe.” The complex answer is also “maybe.”
April 2016
For as long as I have been in this industry, material substitutions have been a way to save money on projects. The process eventually became known as “value engineering.” Theoretically, the contractor, and maybe the owner, saves money by replacing a specified product with a less costly one. We usually look at lighting fixtures first. In the past, it was fairly easy to do. READ MORE