By Don L. Short II

In My Estimate, I'm an Architect's Best Friend

I am an estimator. I have been estimating for about 35 years. I am a professional estimator and certified by the American Society of Professional Estimators. I am also an arbitrator and serve as a Neutral on the Panel of Arbitrators through the American Arbitration Association. There are not too many project types that I have not worked on during my career. I have been fortunate to be able to work on projects on all continents except Antarctica.


Early in my estimating career, and it has held true for all of these years, I learned that architects usually don't care how much a project costs. The exceptions to this are few and far between. One exception is if their contract has a "penalty clause" where they have to redesign the project at no cost to their client if it comes in over budget by a given percentage or amount. However, up until bids are in, they don't care about the cost.

Early in my career, and again this holds true today, I learned architects usually intensely dislike estimators. We are considered trouble makers because we find and ask questions about plan and specification conflicts or omissions. We point out constructability problems with the design documents. We question sole sources for materials and equipment. Most of all, we make the architect redesign the job because it came in over budget. Estimators are the ones that prepare the bids for contractors!

Most architects do not like estimators because the costs we develop do not allow them the freedom (budget) to put their signature design feature on a project because it is too costly.

Early in my career, and again this is still true, I found that architects are their own worst enemy when it comes to costs. While they are design professionals, they are amateurs and bumpkins at best when it comes to estimating. At worst, and I have seen it at its worst, they are deceivers when it comes to the cost of construction. The punch line of an architect's estimate being the cost to construct work in heaven would be funny if it wasn't so painful for a project to be delayed or shelved.

I have a lot of architects tell me that estimating is too expensive or the project is not worth it. I would dare them to tell their client that the project can be delayed while it is being re-designed. I would challenge them to tell their client that the project they are working on for them is not worth their best effort to bring it in on time or in a cost effective manner. How many architects have clients that would appreciate this attitude? How many have clients that can pay any amount for a project?

I would put forth that estimating pays not only the project but the design team especially. It pays the architects to know they have a reliable amount of money in the initial budget presented by their client. It pays the architect to know at schematic design if they are tracking on, over or under the budget. It pays to know the project is on the track for costs at design development and construction documents, prior to receiving bids. Think of it as cost avoidance � the architect is avoiding re-design costs at schematic, design development and construction documents milestones. They are working in a more efficient manner. The design does not have to have a laundry list of alternates to make the budget. They are pleasing the client with a project that meets design and cost criteria.

Estimators are actually architects' best friends. We can help them look great to their clients.

Don L. Short II is president of Tempest Company, an Omaha, Neb.-based consultant, and an estimator certified by the American Society of Professional Estimators. He can be reached by phone at 1-888-334-3332 and by email at
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Oct. 26, 2006

As a�certified professional estimator by the American Society of Professional Estimators and past National President�of ASPE (2002-2004), I must comment.

I�agree with his paragraph that lists the ways "estimating pays" but few architects may have read that far after being called earlier "their own worst enemy", "amateurs and bumpkins" and "deceivers".� There are some who may not want to spend the money for budget maintenance during design but the smart ones see the benefits of preventing design/cost overruns and the embarrassment and expense of post-bid revisions.�

As part of the design process team, the estimator doesn't have to be "intensely disliked" or "trouble makers" nor do we "make the architect redesign the job".� We serve as a tool in the process to assist the designer in providing a successful product to their client.�

Larry L. Cockrum, CPE
Cockrum & Associates Consulting Services
Ripley MS

Oct. 19, 2006

I respectfully request the following statement be published:

The views expressed in the Viewpoint article "In My Estimate, I'm an Architect's Best Friend" are those of the author alone.  They do not represent the views or opinions of the American Society of Professional Estimators ("ASPE"), its staff or members, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity affiliated with ASPE.

Thank you.

John B. Stewart CPE
American Society of Professional Estimators