Construction Estimating: the Odd Numbers game

As a design professional, you have likely seen your share of construction estimates.  You may be in charge of evaluating bid proposals and/or in reviewing projects for value engineering possibilities.  Of course, you are almost certainly involved in submitting your own proposal estimates for architectural or engineering services on a project.

I saw a recent blog discussion on construction estimates, and how owners view them.  In the situation discussed, a contractor was losing business because his estimates were in nice round numbers, creating the suspicion in the owner’s mind that the numbers were not carefully put together.

One commentator, a civil engineer, said:

As a Professional Civil Engineer and owner’s representative, I am very leery of proposals received that are round (up or down) unless I’ve done business with this group before and am aware of it. I agree with the other comments that it appears as if the bidder has not put much effort into their proposal.

What do you think? Are you leery of an estimate that is a nice round number? Do you round your own estimates? Does an estimate of $21,975 look more legitimate than an estimate of $22,000?  Share your thoughts, and your practice, below.


tall building


Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström.

Roofing performance & codes – Free webinar tomorrow (the “it’s-not-Tue” Tip)

Apologies for the late notice, but this one just crossed my desk:  Tomorrow, January 26, 2012, at 2pm EST, Architectural Roofing & Waterproofing UniverArchitectural Roofing Universitysity will present a free webinar entitled

“Code Changes, Point Programs and the Roofing Industry.”

Here’s the description from the presenter:
Webinar will discuss issues that are important to both roof performance and to assure the new Code requirements are met. A few lessons learned and industry needs will be presented along with things that can or must be done in the meanwhile. It is not all bad news; after all, we are the industry problem solvers. As new problems arise our value and opportunities increase.

Attend this webinar to learn:

• How to identify and avoid trouble with new regulatory requirements
• New approaches and product to best avoid constructability and performance issues caused by compliance with new regulatory requirements
• Solutions to problems encountered and venues to help share solutions utilized
• How to think forward concerning the pitfalls associated with implementation of new technology and regulations

Speaker: David R. Hawn, FRCI, RRC, CEM, President, Dedicated Roof and Hydro-Solutions, LLC

Webinar qualifies for 1.0 AIA Learning Unit

Registration is required.

Do you know of upcoming webinars, seminars, or conferences that you think readers of this blog should know about?  Drop me a line or comment below.


Specialized Certification for Structural Engineers: a necessity?

States with Certification RequirementsIn North Carolina, as in 39 other states, there is no special certification for structural engineers.  As structural engineering becomes more complex, is specialized certification an idea whose time has come?

“Increasingly, structural engineers, architects and construction firms work together at the earliest stages of a project,” says Jon Schmidt, Associate Structural Engineer and Director of Antiterrorism Services at Burns & McDonnell and Chair of the Editorial Board of STRUCTURE Magazine. “In today’s world of complex structures and 3D modeling, structural engineering is a partnership among architects, contractors and engineering firms. The structural engineer must be able to offer insightful and pragmatic suggestions, and doing that requires strong technical knowledge, depth of experience and problem-solving abilities that have been well-honed over time.

“To this day, only ten states actually license structural engineering as a unique discipline; among these ten states, the requirements vary substantially. This has made it very challenging for contractors to determine what skills and experience structural engineers bring to the table,” says Schmidt.  “In the 40 states that do not specifically license structural engineers, they are typically licensed as Professional Engineers. This is a generalist license that does not distinguish between structural engineering and related disciplines such as civil engineering. As such, engineers in these states are allowed to perform structural engineering tasks, yet there is no formalized way to know if they possess the in-depth skills and experience that can make all the difference in a major project.”  (For a state-by-state look at the 10 states which do license structural engineering, click on the map above to enlarge the image).

SECB certification is the structural engineering profession’s self-imposed benchmarking process that was initiated in 2003, when the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) voted to establish an independent entity to develop a process of certification. One of the biggest challenges the structural engineering profession faced, until SECB was formed, was that there were no clear benchmarks by which to evaluate the skill levels of professionals in the discipline.

Eight years after its formation, and over 1,752 certifications later, the goals of SECB remain, since there is still no national licensing process for evaluating the discipline-specific skills and expertise of structural engineering professionals. SECB hopes to transform its certification process into the basis for national licensure.


What do you think?  Should a national licensure program be established?  What about other disciplines within the engineering umbrella– should there be separate certifications for those disciplines too?  From a legal standpoint, if an engineer has the SECB designation, he may be seen as holding himself out to a higher standard of care.  With a higher standard of care may come increased liability.  Is this fair for an engineer who voluntarily studies for additional certification?

Share your thoughts on certification and specialization in the comments section, below.

Top Design Products of 2011 (Tue Tip)

funky toiletED+C (Environmental Design & Construction) magazine recently released a list of its top 10 design products for 2011, based on reader requests for additional information. 

Topping the list?  The Energy Star LED lightbulb

Most popular type of product? Materials relating to air quality.

Item which made the best picture for this post?  The Invisi Series II toilet by Caroma, which is designed to maximize floor space by making smaller bathrooms more roomy and luxurious while using the company’s award-winning Smartflush technology.( The half flush uses 0.8 gallons-per-flush (gpf) for liquids, and the full flush uses 1.28 gpf for solids for an average volume of 0.9 gpf.).  Funky little toilet, isn’t it?

What do you think were the top design products of 2011?  Share in the comments below.

Photo (c) Caroma.

Rapunzel vs. the Structural Engineers


A little light-heartedness for your Friday morning………….

Do your kids’ eyes glaze over when you tell them what you do for a living?  The only exposure many kids have to architects and engineers is Mike Brady (thru Brady Bunch re-runs) and NASA folk.  If you don’t work for NASA (and I’m pretty sure you aren’t Mr. Brady), then you may have trouble generating enthusiasm within your brood.  Never fear!  How about showing your kids exactly how *you* would design Cinderella’s pumpkin-turned-carriage, the smart little pig’s brick house, or, better yet, Rapunzel’s castle.

Yes, that’s right– there are now sketches circulating the web showing a prototype castle for the long-haired beauty, all part of a challenge created by NYC architect Andrew Bernheimer and his sister (and children’s book author) Kate Bernheimer.  They asked three A/E firms to create designs for popular fairy tale stories.  Guy Nordenson and Associates had the coveted story currently popular with 4 year old girls everywhere: RapunzelThey created a design to meet the story: a “tower that stood in a forest and had neither a door nor a stairway, but only a tiny little window at the very top.” When asked about the key structural elements, the structural engineers responded, “We were able to meet the Grimms’ strict design requirements by employing a slender tower design of vertical cylindrical stems that are joined by intermittent outrigger beams with a reinforced space at the very top for Rapunzel’s long captivity.”

Create your own fantasy design to show your kids that yes, you are too cool!

(Hat tip to Behold the Architect for the story).

Sketch via Design Observer.

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