The Stages of Cost Estimating

 In Cost Estimating

Overview of the Cost Estimating Stages

  1. Conceptual.
  2. Schematic Design.
  3. Design Development.
  4. Construction Documents.

The Conceptual Design Stage

  • Description: Conceptual Estimate
  • The estimate at this point is based on Square Foot or Unit Cost
  • Accuracy of Estimate: The order of magnitude estimate has a large margin of error because so little information is available regarding the specific details of the project.


The Schematic Design Stage

  • Description: Building will be laid out, and interior program will be established.
  • Includes an idea of the facade finish, structural system (steel, concrete, CMU block). General layout of the typical floors would be shown.
  • Accuracy of Estimate: 15 – 20% margin of error.
  • Cost estimators will have enough guidelines to help them better determine the design concept and allow them to move to the next stage of cost estimating.

A general layout is provided though specific details are not decided. However, for cost estimating purposes some general assumptions are made for the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire alarm system.

The Design Development Stage

  • Description: Owners have developed further guidelines for the project.
  • Accuracy of Estimate: Within a 10% margin of error.
  • Includes functional areas such as bathrooms, conference rooms, workstations and private offices.
  • The architectural drawing become increasingly detailed to include reflective ceiling plans, finish plans, furniture plans, and HVAC, plumbing, and electrical plans.

The Construction Design Stage

  • Description: Specifications and drawings for the construction project. Most defined set of drawings the design consultants will produce.
  • Details will be fully established for flooring, walls, ceilings, furniture and all MEP systems.
  • Subcontractors will be able to develop shop-drawings based on these documents.
  • Accuracy of Estimate: Within a 5% margin of error.
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