10 Best Estimating Takeoff Software for Precast Concrete, Modular Building and Prefabricated Metal / Timber Construction
Estimating and taking off quantities for precast concrete, modular or prefabricated building is a much easier task than quantification of wet construction methods. Most of the time, contractors specializing in prefabricated building have standard house designs and models which can easily be replicated on site anywhere where the site conditions are not extra-ordinary. They already know the number of modular units / panels needed to complete a specific standard model in their portfolio. The estimating software for this kind of work can generate pre-existing quantities (quantities for standard models never change) and it will also price each model using rates from the modular unit manufacturer or factory. For each item in the bills of quantities, the software must automatically add an allowance for labour, profit margin, overhead expenses and equipment etc. If the project is taxable (according to laws in your country), tax must added to the contract sum. Contingencies or provisional sums for unforeseen work are usually not present in modular building or any kind of project employing 100% prefabricated methods.
The advantage of precast concrete or any type of modular building and prefabricated construction is that it’s a dry method of building. The building units are ready-made factory units that are ready for transportation to the site where the construction team will quickly assemble them to form a complete house or dwelling. The assembly of the building blocks can be finished within a day, so you can see why this method is better than the traditional wet building method which can take up to 12 months depending on the size and scope of the project. In wet building methods, concrete is mixed, prepared and cast on site, so you have to wait for the concrete to dry before proceeding. Wet cement mortar joints are used to bind bricks together, and once again, you have to wait for the mortar joints to dry before proceeding to the next stage. Bricks are small building units compared to precast concrete modular units, and as a result, the bricklayer will spend a lot of time building the walls. In order to reduce construction time and save money in the process, the client has to employ modular building methods using large prefabricated panels or units. Modular building is quickly becoming a modern method of construction, not only for residential buildings, but for commercial and industrial buildings as well.
Quantity Takeoff for Custom Prefabricated Building Designs
As explained in the beginning, quantity takeoff for standard house models does not involve changing quantities. The quantities will remain the same unless the model is adjusted or customized. Some clients will require a total architectural overhaul or conceptual design that is done from scratch. In this case, the contractor/estimator has to use estimating software that can take in measurements from the model. This can be done manually or automatically if you have the client’s digital blueprints in 2D or 3D format. Upload your digital drawing into the software and it will automatically calculate quantities (areas, volumes, numerical and linear dimensions) using its geometric algorithm. An example can be given for walls:
The side wall elevation of a call centre is 15,000 x 2,500mm high,
The size of precast concrete modular units/panels is 1500 x 1000mm high,
How many modular units (panels) do you need for this wall?
Wall area = 15 x 2.5 = 37.5m2
Panel area = 1.5 x 1 = 1.5m2
Number of precast concrete units required = Wall area/Panel area = 25 units
You can also calculate the number of half or quarter units required i.e. the fractional units that a panel can be broken down into for completing the edges and ends of walls where a full panel doesn’t fit.
In this case, a 2D or 3D drawing can visually show you the number and size of fractional units required:
The wall is 2,500mm high, so you will need 10 fractional units of size 1500 x 500mm high, in addition to the full-size panels (1500 x 1000mm high) which are (10×2) = 20 in number.
On site, the contractor will cut the full-sized modular panels into the required size using a machine.
If you don’t have wall elevation drawings, you can calculate the number of fractional units as follows:
The wall elevation is 15,000 x 2,500mm high.
Each panel is 1500 x 1000mm high.
The wall length requires: 15,000/1,500 = 10 units along the horizontal axis.
The wall height requires: 2,500/1,000 = 2.5 units along the vertical axis,
Total number of full size (1.5x1m high) panels = 2 units x 10 = 20 No.
Total number of half size (1.5×0.5m high) panels = 0.5 units x 10 = 5 No.
If the wall elevation was 17,000 x 2,500mm high, you would have:
17,000/1,500 = 11.33 units along the horizontal axis
2,500/1000 = 2.5 units along the vertical axis
Total number of full size (1.5x1m high) panels = 2 units x 11 = 22 No.
Total number of half size (1.5×0.5m high) panels = 0.5 units x 11 = 5.5 No.
Total number of fractional units (0.33x1m high) panels = 2 No.
Total number of fractional units (0.33×0.5m high) panels = 1 No.
Precast Concrete Estimating Software
Jobscope is a software company that specializes in the development of ERP and manufacturing software for various industries such as building, metal fabrication, aerospace and crane building. The developers have a specialized ERP software for modular building manufacturers that can handle all stages of the contract, from producing cost estimates to delivery of the final product. When a client makes an order, the required modular building unit is designed and priced, material specifications are planned before sending the design for manufacturing. Big modular building companies like McAvoy Group are making use of Jobscope to handle multi-million dollar contracts.
If you are a precast concrete producer or fabricator, you will find Tekla very useful. It’s not just a contract management software but it’s also a BIM software. Engineers will be able to do some detailing and design on various prefabricated structures, as well as handle the bidding process, produce cost estimates, make project documentation much easier and plan the fabrication process, including site coordination and installation. ERP software and precast concrete manufacturing machinery can be linked to Tekla, taking in CAD/CAM data and producing precise precast units for delivery to the site. A lot of errors can be minimized with Tekla due to its BIM workflow, and optimum use of materials can be realized while reducing costs.
This software was made for taking off quantities and estimating costs for all types of precast concrete work in the construction industry. The estimating system allows the contractor to insert cost components of materials, labour, plant, equipment and subcontractor sums to arrive at a total cost for your tender or bid. A lot of cost details can be included in the estimate, and not just limited to the afore-mentioned components. With this software, you can prepare estimates for one type of prefabricated concrete unit or you can use Power Routines, a specialized option for preparing bids which include different types of precast concrete work.
Takeoff quantities and Excel Bills of Quantities can be uploaded into the software. The output can be converted into Microsoft Word or Excel. Another feature that you would like is the ability to perform contract administration, preparing valuations and claims on work done by the contractor.
The quantity takeoff process involves entering dimensions on a digital sheet via your computer/laptop keyboard and screen.
StackCT is the type of estimating software you need if your main specialty is concrete work. With this software, you can take off the quantity of materials required in concrete projects, including formwork, reinforcement and waterproofing. It comes with an inbuilt library of concrete materials which is very useful for estimators who are creating their first project and need reference. As you work on special projects, you will be able to build up your own database of materials that are not found in the library. During the takeoff process, the software will automatically calculate reinforcement requirements and labour costs associated with the items.
StackCT has 3 plans for clients. The Free Plan allows you to test and use the take-off features, but it’s limited for up to 2 projects and 7-day access. The Plus Plan is $999 per year with unlimited features. You will be able to generate reports, print and export your estimates. The Pro Plan is the most expensive plan at $1,799 per year. This will give you access to the materials library, formula editor and all cost reporting tools.
This advanced software is produced by PTAC Consulting Engineers. It’s a complete suite for designing, estimating and managing precast concrete projects. Engineers have access to useful features like 3D modelling, BIM, Bill of Quantity creation and elemental tracking of precast units. The system can be connected to ERP, and above all, the company provides training to clients. An inbuilt custom database that comes with the software allows the engineer to use Revit more effectively for designing precast elements. Produce 3D models, including site coordination, installation plans and simulations for the actual work on site.
After the design and modelling stage, the next step is creating Bills of Quantities from the model. Material takeoff is a piece of cake once you have the digital drawings. The software can generate quantities within an instant, saving you time and effort that you would need if you were taking off from PDFs or paper.
Once construction is underway, you can track the elements and progress of work on site. The software has accounting features for materials, work done and rate of production. This accounting system can be linked to an ERP system. If you need to adjust the drawings and dimensions, the changes are automatically updated to the working drawings. The quantities in the Bills of Quantities are also updated, generating an updated cost estimate that reflects the change in quantities.
Betsy is a German ERP system for precast concrete manufacturers. It’s also available in English. Manufacturers can use this software to track various elements of a project as well as key aspects of a precast product. Users can track the profit and loss of each project and/or product. They can track inventory, finished products, raw materials, productivity, optimum and minimum capacity, as well as the number of prefabricated units produced, assembled and invoiced. A balance sheet showing the monthly expenditures, revenue and costs can be generated.
All in all, this software is a capable of handling a project, starting with cost estimating and finishing off with site assembly and installation. More than 500 clients in Europe and Asia are using the software.
AllPlan is a BIM design software for precast concrete. It will help you design prefabricated structural and architectural elements, including factoring in reinforcement and formwork. The BIM integration ensures that issues and discrepancies can be detected in the simulated model before sending the drawings to the production plant. The software is more than just a specialized CAD program for prefabricated concrete, it also facilitates the production of cost estimates during the sales stage, and you can get an automatic shop drawing at the click of a button. Formwork placement is automatically calculated during this process. The CAD system can be interfaced with CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) systems for moulding machines, laser cutters and reinforcement benders, creating a seamless system that starts with design and ending with the finished product.
Prefabricated Metal / Timber Frame Estimating Software
EElevations is touted as a pole barn estimating software by its developers. Pole barns are timber-framed dwellings or sheds whereby thick and sturdy poles are used to transfer structural loads to the ground. The poles are sunk deep into the ground and suitably spaced apart at an average of 3.05m centre-to-centre intervals. Sometimes, the poles are fixed to a concrete base. If the pole barn is to be enclosed, horizontal side rails are fixed to the structural poles, to provide a frame on which metal sheet cladding can be fixed. A pole barn is traditionally built on farms to provide storage and shelter for animals, but this type of shelter has also been adopted for garages, tiny houses and workshops.
The EElevation estimating software allows you to design and produce barn drawings of various styles such as the gambriel, double pitch, Polynesian, overhang and mono-pitch. After the design and detailing process, you can carry out an easy material takeoff of elevations, floors, roof, trusses, and all members of the structural frame. There are 3 plans to choose from, the Contractor C-100 allows you to estimate up to 100 designs at $400 a year. The Contractor C-200 provides a limit of 200 designs at $500 a year. The Contractor C-500 allows up to 500 designs at $750 a year.
MBS (Metal Building Software) is a multi-functional software for designing and estimating the cost of metal framed buildings and structures. If you are a steel building contractor or designer, you will find this software useful for your needs. The makers of this program have put in everything that is required for the client to choose a design that is within their budget and inventory. Meaning that if you have X tonnes of steel in your warehouse, storage or site, you can run a scan against a database of all building codes in the world including the USA, to find a suitable design for you.
Building designs can be customized and detailed according to the methods you choose, and when you are done with the detailing phase, you can proceed to generate a Bill of Quantities containing material costs. When the project is about to enter the construction phase, the engineer can produce final working drawings that will be used on site for erecting the structural elements. In construction projects, drafting, designing and detailing takes a lot of the engineer’s time. MBS can reduce this time by at least 50%, which is a great return on investment for a Manager who needs to improve productivity. More than 270 clients are using MBS to handle small and big projects up to $360 million in contract value.