Early in a project timeline, the owner needs to understand the approximate economic and operational feasibility of proceeding. To determine this, a project will enter the conceptual estimate phase.

Conceptual estimating takes an idea drawn out on a napkin and puts a price to the rough idea. These estimates are made in the early phases of a project before construction drawings are completed, often before they hardly begin. Conceptual estimates use any primary design documentation available and utilize engineering and pricing concepts rather than counting individual pieces.

The primary functions of a conceptual estimate are to tell the owner about the anticipated cost, set a preliminary construction budget, and control construction costs at the most critical stage during the design. Providing these estimates presents helpful information for the owner in contemplating the project’s feasibility and further development.

Conceptual estimating is a mixture of art and science, the science of estimating using historical data, and the cost of past work. The art is in visualizing a project and constructing each detail, selecting comparative costs from past projects, and adjusting them to new conditions.

Estimators need to have an understanding of what their project owners need. Information that is too vague is not adequate for a design decision, while too much detail can also restrict the process. The accuracy and validity are highly related to the level of information provided by the project scope. The availability of a good, complete scope definition is considered the most crucial factor for conceptual estimating.

When it comes to providing a conceptual estimate, Archer Mechanical’s historical project data, design-build experience, and lessons learned, streamline the process resulting in a reliable estimate for any project.