Gathering Information

To calculate costs for a project, you need information from many sources – plans, specifications, the site, subcontractors, and suppliers. All of that information must be gathered efficiently, then organized so that it can be readily accessed when the time comes to sit down and calculate costs. To gather it, you need systematic procedures. To organize it, you need a good information management system. 

Fortunately, a really good information system management system is widely available, and it’s cheap. Three-ring binders are wonderful for keeping track of all the procedures and managing all the information necessary to estimate, bid, and then run a construction project. 

Setting Up a Project Binder


  • General Project Information – A page or two for the project address and the phone numbers, email addresses, etc. of major participants in the job. 
  • To-Do Lists – A master list covers the entire process of estimating and bidding, and coordinates with subordinate to-do lists for plan preparation and site inspection.
  • Questions – Here you can keep separate pages for questions for the owner, the designer, each supplier, and each sub, the building, department, and the project lead. During estimating and bidding, and later during construction, when you think of a question you can write it down immediately. 
  • Take-Off Sheets – Here are the recorded quantities of work that are figured from the plans.
  • The Estimate and Bid – All cost calculations are done on spreadsheets. When cost calculations are complete, a cover sheet showing the costs summarized by the phase of work, the markups for overhead and for-profit, and bid price is added. 
  • The Assumptions – This is a really critical section. Write down all assumptions as you make them, run them by the owner and designer, and include them in the contract as necessary. If you go into construction with assumptions different from the owners and designers, you’ve got problems. Catch and clear your assumptions during estimating.
  • Building Notes – During estimating, it can be helpful to brainstorm about how to build a project. Write down your ideas! When construction starts, if it still seems useful, bring it up for discussion with the project lead. 
  • Project Plans and Specifications from the Design – It is important to keep all of the documentation in one place. Most builders roll up their plans. Put them in a folder, fold them up and clip them to the binder, whatever works for you. 
  • Contracts and Change Orders – Pre-construction contracts, construction contracts, and change orders are placed in the binder in the order in which they are signed. 
  • Subcontractor Bids and Contracts – They are stored in the order in which the subs will first work on the job during construction. 

In Conclusion

Setting up so many divisions may seem like overkill, but it is not. Once you have gone through the process a few times, setting up each new binder takes minutes. Those minutes save many hours of searching for information during construction. 

In a well-organized company you can find any piece of information that you need within 15 minutes. With well-organized three-ring binders, you can find the information you need to estimate and run projects in seconds. 

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