A Fine Balance: The Secret Art  of Estimation

A Fine Balance: The Secret Art of Estimation

What really goes into calculating the cost of a real estate construction project? We spoke to Adamo Laboni, MONTONI estimator and project manager, to find out.

What is the first step to estimating a project?

We always start by understanding our client’s needs. Every detail impacts the cost of a project–the size of the building, the number of employees, the electrical requirements–so truly understanding the project’s scope is the most important place to start.

But an estimator’s job is only half done when a client approves the budget. From there on, the estimator is heavily involved in awarding contracts for the entire project. We analyze bids to make sure they’re comparable, make sure they respect the scope of the work, and award contracts to the right bidder for every trade.

What is the most important part of an estimator’s job?

Providing the best possible value for our clients, which means balancing cost and quality. If a client needs to work within budget constraints, it’s our job to value-engineer a project without sacrificing quality. Sometimes this means looking at landscaping or interior compositions to see how the workflow of an office is set up.

At MONTONI, all our teams are in-house so this is much easier. I can walk down the hall to the architect’s office and talk about whether we really need two staircases or if we can go with one. Having all teams in-house also helps ensure that our budgets are accurate and allows a project to move faster. If I get a drawing from the design department we can look at it face to face, not over a week of emails back and forth.

What is the most surprising skill an estimator needs to have?

Communication is key. Many people think that a good estimator is someone who keeps to themselves and calculates numbers all day. However, being able to communicate information properly to the client, with the other departments, and with the subtrades is key to being a successful estimator.

What is something people might not know about estimation?

How much of our job is about details. Many value-added products are continuously being added to Montoni buildings to keep providing our clients with the best quality. One example of this is the type of curing method we use on our slabs. We use a special membrane to ensure that the concrete has a smooth finish and a really clean, polished look. When you’re building an industrial structure details like this are really important since concrete is going to be 75% of your building.

I think this type of value-added product is often overlooked when a client is comparing general contractors, but clients are really happy when they see the finished building. A lot of people think estimation is all about the bottom line, but it has a lot to do with creating value.

So what’s next for estimation at Montoni?

We’ve been in business for over 20 years, but in construction that’s still a young company. So we’re constantly raising the bar on what’s considered top quality.