When I first started doing takeoffs, my estimator’s toolset included a scale, a neon yellow highlighter, a stack of graph paper and my TI-30 calculator. This was back in 1983. I estimated everything from concrete to roofing with just these tools.
In 1985, I bought a Mac and Microsoft Multiplan (the original version of Excel). Armed with my new computer and software, I transferred all the equations that I kept in my head into spreadsheet formulas. At that point, I no longer had to remember how to calculate drywall mud, roofing nails, etc., I just had to enter the key measurements into a spreadsheet and out came the correct quantity.
In 1996, I bought my first Building Information Modeling (BIM) software so that I could provide framing layouts along with my takeoffs. The real beauty of BIM is when you draw something onscreen, it is automatically and accurately quantified, as well. I soon found myself drawing more and more things onscreen in addition to the framing, just for the automatic takeoff.
Do you see where I’m headed with this? Today, every takeoff I do heavily relies on spreadsheet calculations and digital estimating systems. I wonder if I’m still able to do a takeoff with just a scale, a neon yellow highlighter, a stack of graph paper and the TI-30 calculator I had back in 1983. I consider those days as my essential “core skills” for estimating.
Here’s a few questions: What should be considered the “core skills” for today’s estimator? Since spreadsheets and digital estimating systems are here for the immediate future, should we consider an estimator’s “core skills” as their ability to do takeoffs using PlanSwift, Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff, etc.? Or, should every estimator also have the ability to do takeoffs by hand?