Published In February 2001
If your estimate has followed any organized standard, assembling the factors should be less confusing than it is to those starting from scratch. Investing minimal time earlier to organize the estimate can make the final price one that the estimator can support. For manual estimators, previously identifying each page properly simplifies collating the estimate sheets. All pages must be accounted for, so if you invested in a loose-leaf folder when you began the estimate, you can have an organized file today. Computer-based estimators should ensure that their hard disk and back-up versions match. And if you haven’t backed up your work, begin now. One meaningful verification method is to count the terminations, such as EMT connectors. The number of conduit terminations should always be even, except maybe for communication runs. Unless three-way switches are used as a selector type switch, these must always be in even numbers. If the project has four-way switches, then there must be at least two three-way switches. You’ll know you have used the right scale if you compare your scale to the average length of conduit per square foot of the building. Depending on the density of the project’s wiring devices, an average of footage in the teens is normal. If the calculations show a drastic variance, there may have been an obvious error. Feeder conduits and wire usually are a major cost center and should be verified by ascertaining that sufficient wire has been included for the connection at both ends. Obviously, if the conduit and wire come out equal, then the wire required for make-up may have been omitted. This is also when you should ensure that nonmetallic or special-system equipment grounding conductors are included in your estimate. In closing the project, it is mandatory to check again for any addenda. Whether the project has an electrical impact or not, it should not be relegated to some other party. Read every addendum for changes that can affect the electrical work and therefore your bid. An addendum, such as changing the number of days allowed to complete the project, will affect staffing, scheduling, and overhead. Making this last double check can also save time when the bid-accepting party asks if you’ve included all the addenda. The answer should include an enumeration of the addenda you have included in the bid. The worst case is that you don’t have all the addenda. It may be advantageous to call the designers of the project, although they may give impatient answers. Those who have established relations with a contractor bidding the project should contact that person to verify the addenda. Obviously, the number of addenda should be included in your final bid documentation; remember, in case of legal action, the firm submitting the electrical bid is responsible for any omissions or ambiguities. If you made your own fixture count and switchgear takeoff, check for variations from your takeoff. The owner and contractor will not tolerate later pleas that your material quotes were inaccurate and more funds are needed in your bid. Lot prices produce additional problems. If unit prices are required, a lot bid won’t help you. Ensure the bid meets your requirements when asking for quotes, not during the bid’s final stages. The lot price approach will make it difficult for you to confirm that your takeoff was accurate. If the manufacturer is recalcitrant, try to obtain a guarantee that it has included all items needed for a project. Chances are slim that they will accommodate such a request. It may become prudent to exclude firms that will not break up a lot to meet your bid requirements. Whether pricing and extensions are done manually or with a computer, spot checking some items will verify the estimate’s accuracy. Some level should be set at which both labor and materials are verified, so as not to waste time on small items. One obvious spot to double check is to determine whether an item is priced and labored using the same quantity designation. For example, conduit bodies are generally priced per each unit, while boxes are priced per hundred; the labor units must match the quantity designation. Errors can occur if the base quantities don’t match. Therefore, a quick check is to run down the “per” columns in the labor and material pricing areas. Now is also a good time for computer users to fill in prices or labor for items that have been halted, omitted, or are awaiting quotations. If the figures are still uncertain, list missing prices on an errata sheet, with the percentage of markup. If time gets short, reasonable price plugs or guesses based on previous projects can be inserted and marked up. Leaving a hole may contractually force you to work on a “loser.” The closing of a project is critical and best illustrates why a computer may never replace human judgment. DAVID is a professor of electrical technology at Long Beach City College, Calif., a consultant, and an expert witness. He can be reached at (562) 597-1877 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.