ESTIMATING BY STEPHEN CARR
This specification is often accompanied by a statement such as: “Additional
costs incurred by the electrical contractor due to its failure to examine the
existing facilities will not be reimbursed.”
These and similar phrases appear in
the electrical specifications for almost
every project you bid, even if the project doesn’t include an existing building.
These phrases also apply to site conditions, which can trip you up as much as
existing building conditions. For most
commercial projects, you will trench in
a prepared pad. However, some projects
may include extraordinary site conditions. Missing the fact that your trenches
are in a solid granite outcropping is a
great way to bust your estimate.
Another site condition problem is
found at waste water plants and other
industrial facilities. Underground conditions can be extremely congested,
requiring increased costs for your installation. I have worked on projects that
required all trenching to be done by hand.
Light it up
Marc Duquette, senior electrical estima-
tor at Aetna Lighting, Cambridge, Mass.,
gave me a couple examples of missed
existing conditions on lighting retrofit
projects. In one instance, the estima-
tor counted the fixtures to be replaced,
added some labor and material pricing,
Another problem Duquette reported
was an estimator who did not check for the
presence of expensive, add-on, emergency
batteries in the fixtures he was counting
up. Making these kinds of mistakes could
shorten your estimating career.
Hospitals are particularly dangerous
when it comes to existing conditions,
because the space available for new
installations can be very limited. Not
only are ceilings full of the usual systems—such as electrical conduits and
air conditioning ducts—they also are
congested with gas piping, nurse-call and
other critical-care systems.
Don’t expect engineers to work out
locations and routing for you. It is your
responsibility to cover all of the costs
required to make the proposed installations, even if the routing is shown on
the drawings. Do not assume anything
shown on the drawings is possible until
you check for yourself.
Another problem in working at hospitals is arranging shutdowns for critical-care
power changes, which may require temporary generators. Study the shutdown
requirements carefully. I often find ways
to do the job with fewer shutdowns than
indicated in the bid documents.
There is no such thing as a rock-solid
schedule. Many times, I have seen a contractor plan work in an area based on the
hospital’s schedule and then learn they
could not work in that area on the specified day. Make sure you protect your
rights in cases like this, because there
are always costs associated with schedule changes.
Where did it go?
One particularly bad example of existing conditions was at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The
plans called for several large feeders,
with a voltage drop length estimate of
around 100 feet. At the job walk, I discovered the proposed routing was not
possible. After more than an hour of on-site research, it turned out the feeders
needed to be much longer and include
several junction boxes. The conduit and
wire needed to be upsized due to the
On a side note, this condition is one
for which I would write a request for
information (RFI). I always send in an
RFI if I discover costs that another estimator may miss. Usually, the RFI will be
responded to in an addendum, ensuring
all of the bidders have the additional
costs in their bids.
Hidden conditions are a little different from existing conditions, because you
can sometimes get reimbursed for them.
If there are areas you can’t get to during
a job walk, make sure you qualify your
proposal with the exact condition and
the possible impact to your costs.
In brief, ensure the costs for existing
conditions exist in your bid.
They Are out There
Don’t let existing conditions trip you up
SOME SPECIFICATIONS are to be taken seriously. Here is one example: “It is the
electrical contractor’s (EC’s) responsibility to examine the facility thoroughly for
any conditions that may affect its bid. Failure to do so will not relieve the contractor’s responsibility to provide a complete and operable project.”
CA RR has been in the electrical construction business since 1971. He started Carr
Consulting Services, which provides electrical estimating and educational services, in 1994.
Contact him at 805.523.1575 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. I S T