Estimating Large Residential Developments

 

Tract3We would like to share a post that we previously responded to on Mike Holt’s forum. Click here to view the entire thread.

Question
“I’m looking at going into wiring new residential developments. Do any of you know of any websites or have any information as to how I can bid on these large developments? Any help would be appreciated”

Our Answer
Toll Brothers, Pulte Homes and Centex are some of our customers. They are typically good to work for. Their superintendents are usually qualified and know how to run a smooth project. We usually don’t have any major problems with payouts.

Large tract projects have certain benefits. When you bid on a project, you are actually bidding on a lot of homes. You can sell one job and have work for a multitude of years.

The key is that you really need to be confident that your estimate is correct. You have to know what your true costs are. To win these type of projects, you need to go in on your base bid very, very tight. It is the cost of admission.

You will make your margins in the options that the home buyers select. You will need to provide the builder with a standard option price list that contains the standard options that a home buyer will add to the base model. Our margins on options ranged between 60 to 360 percent. It’s really an illusion. It’s a matter of taking the prices as high as you can while keeping them under the point of pain. It’s not taking advantage of the home owner. They are either going to pay for it in the base price or in options. Since the builder is more interested in being able to keep the base price of the homes low, it is expected that you are going to make higher margins in the options.

If possible, you need to help the sales people with selling electrical options. We provided them with electrical option catalogs that they give to the home buyer. This makes a HUGE difference in revenue.

You also need to keep in mind that these projects consist of a hand full of models that will be built over and over again. Because of the repetitive nature, your crew will become very fast at the rough. Also, when your crew finishes work at a certain lot, the next house is just right down the street. This helps minimize down time. You can also keep your van on site. This reduces your fleet cost. We utilized small trailers that we backed up to the house. The tools and material are right there. If you give two of your employees keys to the trailer, work can still continue if your foreman can’t make it to the job.

You can make good money on tract projects. It’s just a different way of thinking.

You asked about how to estimate these types of jobs. We actually developed our own estimating program. It turned out so good that we decided to offer it to other contractors. The program is called TurboBid. (www.TurboBid.net) Mike Holt has sent out numerous newsletters regarding TurboBid. You can download the free trial and judge for yourself. We have also made the electrical options catalog available through our website.

Sharing a Single TurboBid Database with Microsoft OneDrive

OneDriveIf you would like to use TurboBid on multiple computers that are not on a local area network (LAN), we recommend using Microsoft’s OneDrive. OneDrive will automatically synchronize TurboBid’s database between all of your computers. The only restriction is that only one computer can make changes to the database at any given time. By using OneDrive, each of your computer’s will have a database installed on it’s hard drive, as well as an identical copy of the database stored in the cloud.

OneDrive comes preinstalled on Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. (Note: OneDrive is not supported on Windows XP.)

If you don’t already have OneDrive on your computer, you can download it at: https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/download/

To use a OneDrive database in TurboBid, you first have to upload the database to OneDrive. You can find the TurboBid database file on your computer at ‘This PC\Documents\TurboBid 4.0\4.0 Database’. If you use the electrical database, you want to upload the ‘TurboBid3.mdf’ file to OneDrive. If you use the plumbing database, you want to upload the ‘TurboBid3 Plumbing.mdf’ file to OneDrive.

For information on topics such as how to upload documents to OneDrive, how to download your OneDrive documents to your computer, etc., please refer to the following link: http://www.gcflearnfree.org/onedrive/4/print

After you have your database uploaded to OneDrive, and have downloaded the OneDrive database to all of your computers that you use TurboBid on, you then need to set TurboBid to use the OneDrive database. (The OneDrive database can be found in your computers OneDrive folder.) To do this, first open TurboBid and then go to ‘File > Select Database’. After you chose to close your current database, you will be able to browse for, and select, the TurboBid database in your computer’s OneDrive folder.

Now, as long as you have your computer’s OneDrive files set to automatically synchronize with your OneDrive account and an internet connection, when exiting TurboBid on one computer, the database would be synced to OneDrive. This means that, as long as all of your computer’s are using the OneDrive database, the next time you use TurboBid on your other computers, all of the databases would reflect the changes made on other computers. You don’t need to transfer the file or do any work to store it anywhere. OneDrive will automatically save the changes to the database, and update the database file on the other computers.

Share a Single TurboBid Database on Your Local Area Network (LAN)

  1. Install the TurboBid software on a “Server” workstation. This can be any computer on the shared network
  2. Close TurboBid
  3. Select the TurboBid database that is to be shared
    1. Create a new folder in your C: Drive named Shared TurboBid Database
    2. Right click on the new folder, select Properties and click the Security tab
    3. Click the Edit button and make sure your Users and Administrator have Full Control
    4. Copy the mdf database from your C: > Documents > TurboBid 4.0 > 4.0 Database folder
    5. Paste the copied mdf file into the new C: > Shared TurboBid Database folder
    6. Right click on the new C: > Shared TurboBid Database folder and select Share With > Specific People
    7. If the person’s name that you want to share with is not displayed in the box, select them from the dropdown and click the Add button. If their name doesn’t appear at all, share with Everyone
    8. Once the person that you want to share with is displayed in the box, click on their name, select Read/Write for the permission and click the Share button
    9. Right-click on the Shared TurboBid Database Folder and select Properties.
    10. Click the Sharing tab and click the Network and Sharing Center hyperlink at the bottom of the screen
    11. Expand the All Networks category
    12. Public Folder Sharing should be turned on and Password Protected Sharing should be turned off
  4. Allow remote connections to the server
    1. Search for and open SQL Server Management Studio
    2. In the Connect to Server screen, <Your Computer Name>\TURBOBIDSQL should be displayed for the Server Name
    3. Select Windows Authentication and click the Connect button
    4. Right click on the top folder <Your Computer Name>\TURBOBIDSQL
    5. Select Properties > Connections
    6. Make sure that the checkbox for Allow Remote Connections to This Server is checked
  5. Attach the TurboBid database that is to be shared
    1. Stay in SQL Server Management Studio
    2. Expand the <Your Computer Name>\TURBOBIDSQL folder
    3. Expand the Databases folder
    4. Rename the existing TurbobidDatabase to TurbobidDatabase1
    5. Right-click on the Databases folder and select Attach….
    6. Click the Add button located in the bottom right corner of the Select Databases to Attach section
    7. Expand the C: > Shared TurboBid Database folder and selectmdf
    8. Click the OK button
    9. If you receive an error regarding the log file, Select the ldf file from the “TurboBidDatabase” Database Details section and delete it.
    10. Click the OK button
  6. Create a new user in SQL Server
    1. Stay in the SQL Server Management Studio > <Your Computer Name>\TURBOBIDSQL folder
    2. Expand the Security folder
    3. Right click on Logins and select New Login
    4. Select General (on the left side) and enter <Your Computer Name>\Guest for the new login name
    5. Select Server Roles (on the left side) and check the check boxes for both public and Sysadmin
    6. Select User Mapping (on the left side) If you receive a message “One or more of the databases are inaccessible …”, click the OK button
    7. Check the check box for TurboBidDatabase
    8. Click the OK button and close SQL Server Management Studio 
  7. Set the Protocols for TURBOBIDSQL
    1. Search for and open SQL Server Configuration Manager (This is different than the Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio in the previous step)
      1. Use your computer’s Start > Search feature. You might need to search for SQLServerManager11.msc
    2. On the left menu, click the > in front of SQL Server Network Configuration and select Protocols for TURBOBIDSQL
    3. On the right menu, right click on TCP/IP and select Enable
    4. Right click on TCP/IP, select Properties and select the IP Address’ tab
    5. Scroll down to the bottom to IPAll and delete the value for TCP Dynamic Ports. The data box should be left blank
    6. Enter a value of 1433 for the TCP Port
    7. Click the OK button
    8. Select SQL Server Services (on the left side)
    9. Right click on SQL Server (TURBOBIDSQL) (on the right side) and select Restart
    10. Right click on SQL Server Browser (on the right side) and select Properties
    11. Select the Service tab and change the Start Mode to Automatic
      1. If you can’t change the startup type, go to Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > Services. Scroll down to SQL Server Browser, right-click and select Properties. In the General tab, change the startup type to Automatic, click Start and click Apply. You can click Close to close the window and exit the SQL Server Configuration Manager. Continue directly to step 8.
    12. Select the Log On tab and click the Start button
    13. Click the OK button and close the Microsoft SQL Server Configuration Manager 
  8. Create inbound rules
    1. Create inbound rule named TurboBid SQL 1433
      1. Go to the Windows Firewall settings in your computer’s Control Panel. This is usually in your Security section
      2. Select Advanced Settings
      3. Right click on Inbound Rules and select New Rule
      4. Select Port and click the Next button
      5. Select TCP
      6. Select Specific Local Ports, enter 1433 and click the Next button
      7. Select Allow the Connection and click the Next button
      8. Check all three check boxes and click the Next button
      9. Enter the name TurboBid SQL 1433 and click the Finish button
    2. Create inbound rule named TurboBid SQL 1434
      1. Right click on Inbound Rules and select New Rule
      2. Select Port and click the Next button
      3. Select UDP
      4. Select Specific Local Ports, enter 1434 and click the Next button
      5. Select Allow the Connection and click the Next button
      6. Check all three check boxes and click the Next button
      7. Enter the name TurboBid SQL 1434 and click the Finish button
    3. Create inbound rule named TurboBid SQL sqlservr
      1. Right click on Inbound Rules and select New Rule
      2. Select Program and click the Next button
      3. Select This Program Path and click the Browse button
      4. Browse to C: > Program Files > Microsoft SQL Server > MSSQL11.TURBOBIDSQL > MSSQL > BINN > sqlservr and click the Open button
      5. Click the Next button
      6. Select Allow the Connection and click the Next button
      7. Check all three check boxes and click the Next button
      8. Enter the name TurboBid SQL sqlservr and click the Finish button
    4. Create inbound rule named TurboBid SQL sqlbrowser
      1. Right click on Inbound Rules and select New Rule
      2. Select Program and click the Next button
      3. Select This Program Path and click the Browse button
      4. Browse to C: > Program Files (x86) > Microsoft SQL Server > 90 > Shared > sqlbrowser and click the Open button
      5. Click the Next button
      6. Select Allow the Connection and click the Next button
      7. Check all three check boxes and click the Next button
      8. Enter the name TurboBid SQL sqlbrowser and click the Finish button
  9. Log in to the networked database
    1. Start TurboBid and when the login screen appears, click the Select Networked Database button
    2. In the MSSQL Server Name field enter <Your Computer Name>\TURBOBIDSQL
    3. Select Use Windows Authentication
    4. In the Database dropdown select TurbobidDatabase
    5. Click the Test Connection If the test is successful, click the Connect button
    1. Select to use the shared TurboBid database on the other networked computers
      1. The other computers must be on the same network as the server computer. When you are in your File Explorer, you should be able to see the server computer (this is the computer that has the shared database on it) and the remote computers
      2. Start TurboBid on the remote computer. When the login screen appears, click the Select Networked Database button
      3. In the MSSQL Server Name field enter <The Server Computer Name>\TURBOBIDSQL. Make sure that you are entering the name of the computer that the shared database is on.
      4. Select Use Windows Authentication
      5. In the Database dropdown select TurbobidDatabase
      6. Click the Test Connection If the test is successful, click the Connect button

 

Candels Estimating Classes

Candels Training Room

I recently had an opportunity to be invited into an estimating class via video conferencing so that I
could provide a demonstration of our TurboBid estimating software.

The company providing the class was Candels. They have a new state of the art training facility located in Southwest Florida.

The main reason that I’m writing this is to share just how impressed I was with the concepts that I saw being taught by Mr. Candels, and how they mirror the same concepts that we use in TurboBid.

While most estimate training classes will focus on the obvious aspects of estimating, it was refreshing to see Marc Candels taking the time to dig down deeper and help his students learn how to calculate their company’s operational costs, and then how to apply those costs to their estimates.

I was delighted to see that Marc had developed an Excel spreadsheet that basically matches the same context as the manpower burden calculator that we include in TurboBid. Both tools assist users in identifying and accounting for the additional cost, above and beyond the employee’s pay rate per hour, that their company incurs for each field employee that will be working on the job. The calculated annual burden cost is then divided by the employee’s annual billable hours. Annual billable hours are basically the number of hours that the employee will be on the job working each year. The result is an accurate manpower burden rate per hour that can be plugged into their estimates.

Mr. Candels also developed an Excel spreadsheet that follows the same concept as the overhead rate per hour calculator that is included in TurboBid. Both of these tools are designed to assist users in identifying and accounting for all of the costs that their company incurs simply because they’re in business. These costs have nothing to do with a project’s material, labor, etc. They include vehicle expenses, office supplies, office staff, utilities, etc. These overhead expenses must be paid each and every month regardless if their company is awarded 100 projects or, heaven forbid, they are not awarded a single project. The second step in the process is to calculate the company’s total annual billable hours. This basically represents how many hours all of their field employees will actually be working on projects over the course of the year. Once these values are determined, the annual overhead expense is divided by the annual billable hours. The result is the company’s overhead cost per hour. This overhead cost per hour is then plugged into their estimates.

When it comes to estimating, I constantly preach that a company must know all of their costs before they can decide what to sell a job for. Unfortunately, I’ve seen that far too many estimators don’t accurately account for their burden and overhead costs. This is why I was so pleased to see that Candels training classes dig deep into these subjects.

I am often asked where someone can receive estimate training. Candel’s will certainly be high on my list of recommendations.

For more information on Candel’s, please visit their website at https://www.candelsoncall.com.

Century of Electrical Standards: History of the ANSI – Guest Blog from Carl Babb

The following is a guest blog from Carl Babb:

Century of Electrical Standards – History of the ANSI

The American National Standards Institute, also known as ANSI, is a private non-profit organization. Headquartered in Washington, DC, ANSI has coordinated the development of a voluntary standardization system in the U.S. for almost a century.

ANSI acts in the interest and needs of consumers, the government, private companies and organizations. Its mission is to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses on a global scale. It works with other standard organizations around the world to promote the use of U.S. standards.

 

Early Standards

Before the establishment of ANSI, a nongovernmental standardization was initiated with the foundation of the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC. This began at a meeting of leading international scientists and industrialists in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Today, IEC establishes and approves international standards for all electrical and electronic technologies, such as those for circuit breakers and protective relays. Its work covers a range of fields, from home appliances to nanotechnology.

It is made up of national committees from countries around the world. The U.S. branch of the IEC would eventually move on to establish the first ANSI.

 

Founding of ANSI

Several groups of professional organizations founded ANSI. It originated in 1916, when members of the United Engineering Society, or UES, came together. Initiated by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, an UES member, the electrical engineers invited other members, namely the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers and the American Society for Testing Materials to participate in the establishment of a national organization with the aim to coordinate standards development. They were later joined by the non-UES member, namely the U.S. Departments of War, Navy and Commerce.

The original name for ANSI was the American Engineering Standards Committee, or AESC. During its first year, it had an annual budget of $7,500, pooled together from the founding members. Its executive staff was a mechanical engineer named Clifford B. LePage.

 

Early ANSI Projects

ANSI’s first project was a standard of pipe threads, which occurred a year after AESC was founded. In 1920, AESC took on the major task of replacing current safety codes to improve accident prevention.

It was highly efficient and by 1921, the first American Standard Safety Code was approved. This code outlined safety procedures for industrial workers to protect their heads and eyes. By 1926, AESC had established national standards in many fields, from construction and traffic to electrical and mechanical engineering.

AESC was also one of the first organizations to promote international cooperation in the establishment of standards. It played a key role in the creation of the International Standards Association, or ISA, as it hosted the 1926 conference that was a precursor to ISA’s establishment. The ISA would eventually change its name to the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, as it is known today.

The AESC soon evolved and grew out of its committee status. In 1928, it changed its structure through a reorganization. It was renamed the American Standards Association, or ASA. Later, in 1931, the ASA would become affiliated with the U.S. branch of the IEC.

 

ANSI During the War

The ASA played a role during World War II when it established a War Standards Procedure. Completed in 1940, this procedure improved the efficiency of standards development by accelerating the approval of new standards. It was the work of 1,300 engineers and covered areas such as quality control, safety and equipment components for military and civilian radio devices.

After the war ended in 1946, the ASA worked with the standard organizations of 25 other countries to form a single international standard organization. This resulted in the formation of the International Organization for Standardization. Its goal is to promote international standards development to streamline industrial processes.

 

Background

The American Institute of Electrical Engineers, or the AIEE, was the primary group responsible for the establishment of ANSI. The AIEE itself was founded in 1884, 30 years before the founding of ANSI.

Some famous AIEE founders include Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Alexander Graham Bell, notable for being the inventor of the telephone, would also serve as the AIEE president from 1891 to 1892.

The first electrical standards established by AIEE was in 1885. This was the standardization of wire gauges. The AIEE would go on to develop its own electrical apparatus standards, such as for electrical switches, circuit breakers and protective relays. By 1926, it had approved a total of 71 standards.

 

Early Electrical Standards

Electrical standards in the 1920s were the responsibility of the Protective Device Committee. The committee’s work includes acknowledging and testing the ratings of breakers, as well as their abilities to interrupt currents. Much of their early work was completed in shared facilities with the breaker manufacturers. One such cooperative was with the Westinghouse Manufacturing Corp, a major manufacturer of electrical components at the time.

One of the earliest standardizations was for the oil used in circuit breakers. Later, this became the basis for the establishment of circuit breaker standards.

By 1924, standard definitions were being proposed for circuit breaker terminology. It included terms such as Operating Duty of Oil Circuit Breaker and Standard Operating Duty Cycle.

 

Formation of IEEE

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, or the IEEE, was founded in 1963. It was the result of a merger between the AIEE and the Institute of Radio Engineers, or the IRE. Since both the IEEE and the IRE had developed their own standard programs at the time of the merge, a single IEEE Standard Board was created to streamline both standards.

There were three other accredited American National Standards Committee when the IEEE was first established. To promote a more coherent set of standards, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was established. This memorandum gave the power to all three organizations to choose which one of their standards would be recognized as the single American National Standard.

 

Reorganizations and Name Changes

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the ASA helped industries and governments with standardizing the fields, such as nuclear energy, information technology and materials. In 1966, it was reorganized as the United States of America Standards Institute, or USASI.

Later, in 1968, the USASI worked to oversee the licensing of its name to manufacturers. This voluntary standardization approval was in response to increasing consumer demands for higher quality products.

The ASA changed its name to ANSI in 1969, and the name it still used today. It would go through more reorganizations while continuing to make new efforts to coordinate and approve new national standards. The voluntary national standards are currently known as American National Standards.

 

ANSI Today

With increasing globalization activity in the late 1980s, businesses and communities realized the importance of a globally accepted set of standards. In 1987, ANSI worked to administrate a joint ISO/IEC technical committee on Information Technology. This committee has now become the largest standardization committee in the world.

Today, ANSI continues to change and adapt to the needs of the interconnected global economy. Its work has improved consumer confidence in products and services throughout global supply chains. Currently, it is facilitating innovations in nanotechnologies and working to improve energy efficiency for greater environmental awareness.

Carl Babb is a retired Electrical Engineer from Massachusetts who blogs about the industry for Relectric.com. He is passionate about Green Energy and Building practices. Now retired he enjoys writing, spending time with his grandchildren and staying current (pun intended). For more from Carl visit the Relectric Blog.