First things first it completely depends on the size of your company. A multinational company will have entirely different needs and budget than your small residential builder. Licenses for complex solutions can cost thousands of dollars per year per user but there are some really great, simple to use & affordable solutions also.
Another major factor to consider is, who will be using the software? Will it be a professional estimator who has completed a degree in estimating or a will it be a builder or sub-contractor looking to price a job after doing a days work?
Why would you need takeoff/estimating software?
“I spend too much time measuring plans and calculating labour and materials costs”
“I make mistakes when estimating labor & materials costs and quantities”
“I’m not great at creating professional looking quotes”
“My plans, quotes and material estimates are all over the place, and I need to store it in one place”
Estimating (large companies vs small)
In Australia 97% of construction companies are classed as small or medium (19 or less people). Up until recently there was no real software available for these smaller builders and subcontractors. The process of estimating/quoting manually from plans is time consuming and inefficient.
On the other hand estimating for large construction companies is entirely different. Companies like Lend Lease, Brookfield Multiplex and John Holland will have completely separate divisions for their estimating, and will strive to make the process as efficient as possible. These types of professionals benefit greatly from commercial construction software that can scale and support their many employees.
Let’s have a look at the various options out there, and see what is the best for you.
Blue Beam: https://www.bluebeam.com/au/
Cost: $525 - $900 per seat, per year (not including annual maintenance fee)
With a number of different user profiles that are tailored to show the tools and functions that someone in that role will be likely to use the most, Blue Beam is a very intelligent and user friendly software. It’s features are diverse meaning you can use it as an estimating takeoff tool, an estimating database, document control system and cloud document storage.
Whilst Blue Beam isn’t as suitable for small projects, it’s a great software for large projects.
Why you should download Blue Beam:
It’s intuitive and is packed with many useful features, such as the auto-compare feature, which allows users to compare multiple revisions of drawings to easily see the changes.
It can be a bit overwhelming to use at first due to the sheer amount of tools and menus. Bluebeam does offer many tutorials and how-to'ss, however it does take a while to get a grasp of the software.
Cost: $2495 - $3495 for standard or pro, +$1000 per year maintenance
Buildsoft is an Australian based estimating and takeoff software. It allows users to make measurements on construction drawings on-screen, to generate quantities instantly. It’s compatible with DWFx, CAD, PDF, JPEG and PNG files, and has integration with BIM.
Another major benefit of buildsoft is the ability to import data from suppliers, which can be saved to automatically connect to your estimate.
Negatives: It is expensive. Especially if you opt for the Pro version, which includes bill of quantities, custom report and BIM reader.
Why you should download Cubit by Buildsoft:
It’s a great software with a lot of valuable features, it’s pricing makes it suitable for large construction companies and professional estimators.
Cost X by Exactel: https://www.exactal.com/en/
Cost: Price dependant on package (top tier)
Cost X is a cloud based estimating solution. Its applications include masonry, roofing, flooring, shop fitting, landscaping, structural steel just to name a few. The software allows users to measure lengths, counts and areas from CAD drawings and scanned documents.
A handy function is the rate library, which allows for a quick adjustment of rates across a major project, which will then adjust the whole cost of the project. The subcontractor analysis tool is also very useful for contractors to evaluate bids.
Much like Blue Beam and Buildsoft, the software is highly technical and can take a while to become comfortable with many of the features. It’s also fairly pricey.
Why you should download Cost X:
It’s functionality produces accurate takeoffs, and it an excellent tool for professional quantity surveyors.
ConX Measure: https://www.conxjobs.com/measure
Cost: Free for 1 project per month. $40 per month on the unlimited plan.
ConX Measure is a measuring tool developed by Australian based construction start-up ConX. The tool is completely online, with no need to download any expensive software. Simply upload your plans and measure on screen. The product is intuitive, really simple to use and teaches you how to use the tools as you go. When you are finished measuring you can export all of your measurements straight to an excel quoting template and download your marked-up plans to attach to your quote.
Negatives: It’s not suitable for high end complex projects. There is also no BIM capabilities.
Why you should use ConX Measure:
Its simplicity, no downloading software and it doesn’t require training or onboarding. It’s also significantly cheaper than other options on the market. The team are always available on live-chat.
At the end of the day the most suitable software depends on the size of the company and the volume of takeoffs you will be completing.
For smaller construction companies ConX Measure is the most suitable as it’s an easy to use, inexpensive solution which removes the need to manually produce takeoffs by hand. Moving to a much larger company set-up if you have a large budget dedicated to an estimating software look into Cost X, Blue Beam and Buildsoft. These program are better for teams of estimators & quantity surveyors.