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

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
March 2016
Last month, I started a conversation about millennials. As a group, they are very important. According to Pew Research, millennials already represent the largest portion of today’s available workforce and will overtake baby boomers later this year as the largest generational population group in the United States.
February 2016
When I decided to write an article about the difficulties contractors are having hiring good people, I had no idea what I was getting into. Once again, I had picked a subject with passionate people on both sides of the table. In this case, the millennial generation was on one side; older employers were on the other.
January 2016
For several years, I have been seeing a new hole in the theoretically 100-percent-complete electrical drawings we are provided for bidding. Within the last year, the problem has gotten bigger, driven by increasingly strict energy-usage requirements. The problem is light-emitting diode (LED) controls and dimming. Many engineers are simply not addressing the issue. READ MORE
December 2015
While researching last month’s column, I realized integrated project delivery (IPD) deserved an entire article to itself. Traditional delivery methods, in particular design/bid/build (DBB), often devolve into antagonistic relationships among the owner, designer, general contractor and subcontractors. The continuing decline in construction-document quality adds more fuel to the fire. READ MORE
November 2015
If you’ve ever seen Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” skit, you probably understand how many people feel about the evolution of project delivery methods. READ MORE
October 2015
An estimator’s primary job is to produce an accurate estimate. However, estimators may also bear the responsibility for protecting their employers and themselves from risk. It does not matter if you are a small, medium or large contractor. Someone has to assess and deal with the risk associated with signing a contract and performing the work.
September 2015
They’re here. The mavens of technology have arrived to tell us that, once again, we must move on to the next great thing. According to them, web-based software is the path to the future. The “cloud” is where we now must compute, write, schedule, calculate and present.