Construction estimating software is an great modern tool. It has revolutionised the way we work within the building industry, and helped countless contractors and homeowners get a handle on the expected cost of their new build or renovation projects.

There’s no denying that construction estimating software can be used to do calculations that would take many hours, if not days, by a Quantity Surveyor with a pencil and a scale ruler. It produces almost all the numbers required to estimate the cost of a building project.

However there are also some major problems with construction estimating software. As with many other programmes or algorithms, they work well from a purely quantitative perspective but they lack the finesse and the qualitative value that you get when there’s a human being involved.

Construction estimating software falters in a couple of situations. Sometimes there is just not enough detail in the architectural drawings for the software to work as accurately as possible. Many important, and costly elements can be missed as a result. For example, without clear structural drawings the software struggles to properly estimate the cost of the steel work. Depending on the size of the project, this could be tens of thousands of pounds that are missing from the estimate!

Another limitation is with fixtures or fittings which are to be supplied by the client. Typically this would include items such as sanitary ware or kitchens. It may be possible to measure the size of the kitchen, but the construction estimating software has no idea what make or quality the kitchen is likely to be. The cost to supply and fit a bespoke handmade kitchen fitted with granite work surfaces and specialist appliances can be several times more than you’ll pay for high street branded units with a more basic specification.

Furthermore, the construction estimating software cannot cope with the more specialist, custom-built aspects of a project. This could be something like a swimming pool, large sections of bespoke glazing, or a unique staircase. Whilst these can all be measured, using construction estimating software to put an accurate cost to supply and fit these elements can be challenging. The cost of a large individually designed panel of glazing is most certainly different from multiplying the cost of many smaller off-the-shelf windows!

The inherent problems with construction estimating software, used without the oversight of an experienced construction cost professional, mean that unless you are planning to build a simple, low specification home, the estimates are likely to be inaccurate. Usually they will be major gaps and they will under-estimate the value of the works. Without a Quantity Surveyor taking time to look at the drawings and understand what style or quality the house is going to be, it is difficult to get an accurate estimate of what it is going to cost. Two buildings with the same footprint can cost completely different amounts of money to build, because they have completely different specifications and quality requirements.

Here at CLPM, we carry out the same step-by-step construction estimating process as the online providers, but for us this is only the start of the process. We then spend time going through the drawings and specifications, looking for exceptional items and collecting all the necessary information from the architects, structural engineers and clients. This personal approach means our reports are not only more detailed that the online providers, but they also build a much more robust cost estimate. This can then be used to cost engineer or refine the designs should the costs not match the budget available.

Are you planning a major building problem? If you’d like to get an accurate estimate for your build then contact us for a free quotation. Call 01923 896550, email info@cl-pm.com or complete a contact form.

CLPM Project Managers cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. Energy Consultancy and Cost Advice services available across the UK.