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Cost Estimating and Tricks of the Trade - A Practical Approach

Timothy D. Blackburn, MBA, P.E.

Course Outline

This is a practical course in the area of estimating. This course covers the fundamentals of cost estimating from a practical perspective, based on the Instructor's experience both in the Consultant and Owner environments. In addition to the fundamentals, the course also addresses the levels of design/scope development needed at each phase and the associated estimate accuracy expectation. Practical explanatory charts and tables are provided. Common pitfalls are discussed. "Tricks-of-the-trade" are provided, which will increase the likelihood of a reliable estimate.

This course includes a multiple choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to understand the following and apply:

Intended Audience

The intended audiences are engineers, architects, project managers, cost estimators, contractors, owners, and others interested in or required to develop estimates. Primarily, those who are not estimators but are asked to be involved in estimating will benefit most, including management individuals that request estimates.

Benefit to Attendees

The attendee should be able to understand the essentials of estimating, expected design/scope at various levels with corresponding estimate accuracies, apply "tricks-of-the-trade," and avoid common pitfalls.

Course Introduction

We as engineers, consultants, owner reps, and project managers are frequently asked to provide estimates. How do we go about this? What minimum scoping/design is needed to achieve a stated estimate accuracy? What accuracy can we be reasonably expected to attain at a given scope/design level? This course will answer these questions and provide practical insights to developing meaningful estimates. The course will also offer advice to avoid common pitfalls and exclusions from estimates. This course is filled with practical insight from the Instructor's considerable experience with both the Consultant and Owner's perspectives. The course discusses estimates from the earliest stages to those with well-developed scopes.

Course Content

The course content is in a PDF file (96 KB) Cost Estimating and Tricks of the Trade - A Practical Approach. You need to open or download this document to study this course.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. What is an estimate?
3. Popular Estimating Misconceptions
4. The Truth about Estimating
5. Sources of Estimating Data
6. Methods of Estimating
7. forgotten Costs
8. Contingency - what it is used for?
9. Present Value Calculations
10. More Examples
11. Estimating during the Planning and Design Phases
a. Fundamental Scope and Budget
b. Schematic Design
c. Design Development (Preliminary Engineering)
d. Construction Documents ( Final Design) - Control Estimate
12. Hazards
13. Tricks of the Trade/Lessons Learned
14. Typical Costs Realized - Categories as a Percent of Total
15. Course Summary

Course Summary

In this course we have learned practical estimating approaches and theory. Remember to develop scope necessary for the required estimate accuracy, and include all the costs associated with the project. Avoid misconceptions and pitfalls. Apply the tricks-of-the trade. Think "total cost" - Owners typically don't want elements of a project cost with gaps remaining, but need the total required. Don't forget those things often left out!


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.