Change orders—we love them, and we hate them. Preparing a change order used to be enjoyable. The drawings were clear, the changes were clouded and we were allowed to make a profit. All we submitted was a lump-sum proposal, which was rarely questioned and never outright rejected.
I perform many takeoffs for industrial projects. One of the significant differences between commercial and industrial work is the feeders, which can account for more than 80 percent of the time needed to complete the takeoff.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Estimators are the link between the contractor and the customer, the project and the contract, the company and its revenue. While only a percentage of estimates yield a project, contractors know each one needs to be treated as a sure thing.
Contractors are gamblers by nature. They risk their livelihood on a multitude of factors, many of them uncontrollable, such as the weather, commodity prices and the actions of others. Nowhere is this risk better demonstrated than during the competitive bidding process.
Various internet sources claim that adults make an average of 35,000 decisions each day. While that total may be in dispute, it highlights the constant activity our brains are in deciding on matters both inconsequential and life changing.
Information technology and automation have converted construction project estimating from an arcane and sometimes mysterious art to an art-and-science process that can be standardized (individually, for each company) and reliably repeated.
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
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.