The Anatomy of a Perfect Bid
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DCD, Industry Associations Announce Best Project Estimate Challenge
By Lynn Murray
Preparing an accurate, complete construction bid requires the perfect
intersection of a unique (and often evasive) combination of elements. Project
knowledge, design insight, historical data, the ability to predict and adjust
for ever-changing variables, and a healthy dose of luck all factor into the
estimating equation. Cost estimating can be both challenging and frustrating,
but it’s the exactness of the science – and the lack of it – that attracts and
entices estimating professionals constantly trying to hit the moving target.
It seems simple enough: An estimate is a calculation of the quantities of
various items of work and the expenses likely to be incurred during the course
of that work. How the estimate compares to the actual costs, however, depend on
the accuracy of the professional’s methods and his ability to visualize the
work. Under-estimating can result in a shock to the client – and possible
abandonment or drastic modification of the project. Over-estimating may lose the
estimating professional his client, his job – or at very least, his confidence.
A new contest seeks to recognize and reward those estimating professionals
and/or their teams who manage to get it right. The Best Project Estimate
Challenge – the first of its kind in the estimating profession – is seeking
entries from owners, architects, general contractors and estimators from all
types of projects. Kind of a “closest to the pin” challenge for professionals
that estimate, the contest is open to any firm whose project estimate won a
prime construction contract by 2 percent or better.
The Best Project Estimate Challenge is sponsored and judged by a triumvirate of
professional industry organizations that promote and facilitate accurate cost
• Design Cost Data (www.dcd.com), a
publisher of actual building construction costs submitted by architects and
contractors nationwide for more than 50 years. Cost escalators and regional
modifiers allow readers to cost model projects based on peer-submitted
• The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) (www.aspenational.org),
a professional society founded in 1956 serving construction estimators by
providing education, fellowship, and the opportunity for professional
development and promoting the highest standards and ethics in the practice
of construction estimating.
• The International Builders Exchange Executives (IBEE), an international
non-profit association founded in 1948 for senior executives from Builders'
Exchanges and other construction-related associations who are committed to
sharing information, ideas, trends, techniques and methods for the
betterment of serving a diverse and complex industry. Through an informal
affiliation called the Builders Exchange Network (www.bxnetwork.org),
IBEE members provide plan room services and project news information to over
70,000 commercial contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers in North
“As the largest association devoted entirely to the interest of the construction
estimating professionals, ASPE is very pleased to partner with Design Cost Data
magazine and the International Builders Exchange Executives to bring together
tremendous examples of what really talented estimating teams can do,” said
Edward Walsh, executive director, ASPE.
“Estimating involves so much more than just pulling a few numbers together; it’s
far from easy. Design Cost Data has always focused on providing real, historical
project data that gives architects, contractors and estimators a solid
foundation for building cost estimates and project estimate validation,” said
Barb Castelli, publisher, Design Cost Data magazine.”This challenge celebrates
those talented professionals who have carefully and continually mastered their
According to Brenda Romano, Executive Vice President of the International
Builders Exchange Executives, the contest gives recognition to a group that is
often overlooked. “We want to recognize the ‘unsung hero’s’ of the construction
industry,” said Romano. “Accurate estimating is crucial to the bid process. It
can literally make or break a construction company. We are delighted that Design
Cost Data Magazine has decided to spotlight this group and pleased to contribute
in some small way toward their recognition.”
Project estimates will be judged on the following criteria:
1) The Numbers (30 Points) - The conceptual-to-actual bid comparison (if
applicable) and the bid-to-final-cost comparison (not including change
orders), project schedule, and predicted and actual time of the project.
2) The Estimating Processing (30 points) - The estimating technique and
appearance of the estimate, coupled with a 500-word essay describing the
project, its challenges and why it should win the contest. This section
should also include any materials or documentation that support the
estimating strategies used to arrive at the final estimate, including
drawings, cost databases, cost indexes, software, etc.
3) The Presentation (40 points) - The project will be judged on the overall
presentation, including presentation board, photos, estimating forms, etc.
Date and deadlines
Firms interested in submitting a project presentation for the Best Project
Estimate Challenge are asked to complete and submit an “Intent to Participate”
Form by October 15, 2008. Forms can be downloaded on
This intent form will help DCD identify interest and subsequently a location for
preliminary or chapter contests. The ASPE chapters and BXs will host these local
contests to choose the entries to be sent out to Regional Events where a maximum
of 5 regional entries will move on to final judging and the winner announced at
the 2009 ASPE Annual Meeting.
All projects completed after July 1, 2007 are eligible for submission. Contest
is open to all. Participating firms do not have to be members of ASPE.
Project entries are due to Design Cost Data no later than February 1, 2009.
The Challenge Award will be presented in July 2009 at the American Society of
Professional Estimators Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo.
And the winner gets …
The winning project and estimating team will be featured on the cover of Design
Cost Data magazine, giving the winner national recognition. DCD will also donate
$1,000 in honor of the winner to the ASPE National Scholarship Program.
Additionally, the International Builders Exchange Executives will match the
$1,000 donation to the local ASPE Chapter of the winner. The winning project
presentation will be displayed at the ASPE Annual Meeting in July 2009 in St.
For questions or more information regarding the Best Project Estimate Challenge,
contact Barb Castelli, publisher, Design Cost Data magazine at 800-533-5680 or
via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intent To Participate
"Best Project Estimate Challenge”
Have you or one of your general contractors produced a great estimate? Hit your
project budget right on with a design build solution? Left nothing on the table
in a competitive setting? If so, that is what we are looking for. Please submit
your estimate for our Best Project Estimate Challenge. The winner will be
announced in St. Louis at the 2009 ASPE national meeting and featured in DCD.
Project Estimates will be judged on 1). The bid to bid comparison, and bid to
final cost (not including change orders) 2). The estimating technique and
appearance of the estimate along with a 500-word essay describing the estimating
process, the building, and why should your project win 3). The overall
presentation of the award submittal. Projects completed after July 1, 2007 are
Project Intent forms are due to Design Cost Data™ no later than October 15, 2008
and Project Entries are due to Design Cost Data no later than February 1, 2009.
Please call DCD at 800-533-5680 with any questions or for more information visit