5 Keys to Early Cost Estimating in Commercial Pre-Construction

man looking at construction plans on a wood table

Staying within budget is one of the most important factors in any commercial construction project. There are many decisions to be made throughout the construction process, and an accurate estimate is essential to ensure that the overarching plan for your project is sound. The pre-construction phase helps build a solid foundation for commercial construction, especially when it comes to early cost estimating. 

5 Keys to Early Cost Estimating in Commercial Pre-Construction

Over the years, our pre-construction team has developed hundreds of preliminary and detailed cost estimates. Here are a few best practices we’ve learned when it comes to providing a comprehensive and accurate cost estimate to project owners during the bidding process and pre-construction phase:

1. Include the construction team early in the design process.

Historically, the pre-construction process has been limited to the building owner, design team, and their engineers, who employed the traditional design-bid-build approach and didn’t see project plans until the design was complete. Today, a more helpful trend is emerging to give contractors a voice in early project planning. 

Many design-build leaders recognize the benefits of pre-construction estimating as the project design evolves from concept drawings to construction drawings. This approach to pre-construction is key for accurate cost estimating and providing the project owners with the best possible outcome.  

2. Cultivate open communication with architects and design teams.

Candid and respectful communication can make a tremendous difference in the overall success of a project. This is especially true as pre-construction teams work alongside architects and project owners to estimate potential costs. In order to begin with the end in mind, the team must openly discuss spending considerations, project priorities, and budget constraints. By doing this, the architects can plan and design the project to fit within the budget. Additionally, it helps the pre-construction estimator to provide guidance when the project plan, such as design ideas or materials, goes beyond the budget limit.

3. Offer real-time estimates during the pre-construction phase.

Another benefit of getting involved early is that it allows the estimator to offer “in-between” estimating during design meetings to guide the design process. These micro-estimates provide real-time cost feedback, helping designers to make informed decisions about the use of different products or construction methods. This makes a tremendous difference in accelerating the bidding and budgeting process and eliminates much of the back-and-forth of budget reviews.

4. Factor in current market conditions and supply costs. 

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen prices spike in nearly every area of commercial construction. Some material costs and supply chain issues have subsided, but knowing the current state of the market is critical for cost estimating. Contractors have a pulse on current supply issues and costs. Anticipating and planning for them is critical for early cost estimating and navigating the rising costs of commercial construction.

5. Support experience and intuition with technology. 

Cost estimating has the potential to be stressful, especially when you’re working on a multi-million dollar project with hundreds of variables. Thankfully, construction cost estimating software is a helpful tool for creating an accurate and comprehensive estimate. In addition to incorporating BIM models, ​this software can help forecast labor, materials, and other overhead costs, which helps estimators prepare precise, accurate estimates. 

Cost Estimation: One Factor for a Solid Foundation

Pre-construction offers a solid foundation for a successful construction project. Cost estimating is an important part, but it’s also helpful to consider other factors such as procurement, site conditions, and scheduling. 

At Crain, we want to help our clients maximize the value of their projects and build a structure they can be proud to put their name on. We can maximize your investment in commercial properties, and we are committed to helping you achieve your goals. Connect with our team today to get started.

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