Preconstruction Estimating

Conceptual Estimates, Budgets, And Design-Build

Assigning costs is necessary in every stage of planning, and ultimately, constructing a building. Sometimes, unfavorable budgets, zoning requirements, or a tricky economy might preclude a building from being constructed. However, understanding the planning process and the key differences between the various types of estimating strategies (including conceptual estimates, budgets, and design-build) will help you determine where the proposed building is in its planning cycle — and help you make a more informed decision about your participation in the project.


We provide services in these areas, but are not limited to the following:

Conceptual Estimates

Conceptual estimating is part art and part science. The estimator has to have a “big picture” view, looking for long-range solutions rather than shortsighted projections. Conceptual estimators hone their craft with practice and experience, basing their estimates on real-world examples and past projects. According to the Design-Build Institute of America, Washington, D.C., a conceptual estimate is “the skill of forecasting accurate costs without significant graphic design information about a project.” However, the lack of information does not negate the importance of a conceptual estimate, because it can make an appreciable difference in the cost effectiveness, feasibility, efficiency, and outcome of a project.


One reason to complete a budget is to obtain full funding for the project and to provide a cost-control mechanism for the fabrication and construction process. Developers can minimize exposure to cost overruns by accurately developing “real” costs. There are many new and exciting tools that can be used to anticipate how a building will look, function, and be built most effectively. By developing an accurate scope of work for the project, contractors can avoid disputes that almost always result in cost overruns. In other words, the budgeting phase is essential.

Schematic budgets signal the start of work by the architect, allowing him to illustrate the design concept, including the site plan, floor plans, exterior elevations, and key building sections. Design development budgets depict a coordinated description of all aspects of the design, including fully developed floor plans, sections, exterior elevations, interior elevations, reflected ceiling plans, wall sections, and other key details. The basic mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems are also defined in this stage, becoming the basis for the construction documents that follow.

Design Build

The goal of a design-build project estimate is to identify the true costs of items and to determine along the way if the cost of that item is feasible to the owner or developer. Identifying the proper scope will always be a crucial element of this process. A minimum/spec job will cost less than a building designed to purpose/function. Code issues and utility company requirements must be considered.

Some key questions to consider include: What kind of building is it? What is the building construction? What are the needs of the potential tenant(s)? Did the customer give you a list of equipment that needs to be wired? Cost efficiencies and energy rebates of certain types of fixtures may be important as well. If the design-build project were to be based strictly on “cost to install,” the developer may be satisfied but the owner or tenant may not be. In the long run, the total life cost of the fixture will be more important, especially as energy costs rise.

With Charter Estimating on your team you will have the confidence we will carry you through the entire process from conceptual through the final bidding process to ensure the numbers your company provides are accurate and coincide with expected bids.

Charter Estimating is here to provide Estimating Services for your design team to help you provide essential costing decisions.


Why You Can Count On Us

  • We are a professional estimating services company offering quick estimates or our long term estimating solutions for contractors nationwide.
  • We offer our five point process that is a proven method for successful competitive bidding.
  • Estimating is our Only business and it's what we love and what we do best.
  • Give us an opportunity to earn your business, and we will not let you down.


We Want To Earn Your Business!

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Need Help On How To Get Started? Check Out Our Electrical Cost Estimating Services!

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