Electrical Estimating for Design Build Projects

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Have you ever wanted to perform design assist electrical budgets in hopes of generating more revenue for your company? Providing electrical estimating budgets can give electrical contractors an edge over the competition that bidding standard projects does not.

Basically there are three phases to electrical design assist budgets that you need to understand and they are:

• Schematic Design Budgets (aka SD Budgets)
• Design Development Budgets (aka DD Budgets)
• Construction Documents Budgets (aka Hard Bid)

Schematic Design Budgets can be based off of nothing more than a narrative and absolutely no other documentation may be provided. Sometimes you might get lucky and receive a basic footprint of the building to work with. Usually the narrative will define the desired service voltage and amperage rating and if there is an emergency generator it will be mentioned also. You will also likely be given a brief description of the desired light fixtures, fire alarm, communications, security systems and etc.

Design Development Budgets offer far greater detail but don’t expect the drawings to be more than 50% complete or accurate. These documents will typically show the location of the service and electrical distribution System. Light fixtures and other various electrical devices such as receptacles, occupancy sensors, and special systems will likely be shown. Rarely will anything be circuited. There might be a one-line of the distribution system but don’t expect to see a feeder schedule. There may be panel schedules but no breaker fill will be included. Some form of specification may be provided also but it will be lacking.

Construction Documents are what we are all use to bidding. The project is fully engineered and we have pretty much everything we need or can RFI for the information that has been unintentionally left off. Construction documents are not budgets like the prior two phases. This will be the amount your contract is awarded for if you are the successful low bidder or have the best value bid.

Budget estimating really can give you the leg up on your competition! After bidding the three phases of the project you will have intricate information other electrical estimators may not have. Generally speaking these projects are solely awarded to the general contractor or project management firm hired to perform the budgets and you will have a unique relationship with them that the other contractors probably will not have.

A good strategy for bidding these projects is to not low ball the first two budgets (SD & DD). The owner is using the information you provide to secure funding for the project. Come in higher than your previous budget and you go from being the hero to a zero. Not really but the owner and firm that hired you will not be happy!

Having knowledge of your local market will help you not come in over budget on the DD and CD phases. There are various ways to achieve this such as using slightly inflated labor units, higher labor rates, higher overhead and profit margins, or include a contingency for missed items on the SD & DD budgets. They key is to have a inflated yet realistic budget prior to the CD. When you receive the CD documents now you can bid as tight as you are comfortable with bidding.

Tools that will help you perform budgets include RS Means Electrical Cost Data, DCD Guide to Construction Cost, and last but most important is your historical data. If you aren’t keeping a bid log of past projects bid you’re a throwing away you very best resource!

For more information on estimating budgets contact DBP Electrical Consulting for all of your electrical estimating needs!

Estimating Electrical Design Build / Assist Projects

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