Explaining BouwData - part 1

A lot of people ask me what BouwData exactly is.

I usually refer to the homepage of www.bouwdata.net where you can find powerpoint presentations in Dutch: a rather small one (33 slides) and the big one I use when I give lectures (126 slides).

The next reaction I get is "BouwData is really complicated". Well, it is ... 
and it isn't at the same time. In the whole building process, there are just a lot of things to consider if you want to get beyond the administration and generate knowledge through your estimation.

Yesterday someone said my previous blog was too long. But that, although he doesn't know anything about construction, he could understand what I was talking about. A nice compliment and usefull remark. Thanks Geert !

So, I am going to keep the examples but cut things into little pieces. And I am going to start at the very beginning: my frustration working as an estimator at fairly large construction companies. And no, it hadn't anything to do with annoying bosses ! It's all about how the system has grown over the past decades.

How did it work back then (*) ?

First, you got a fairly large office space where people delivered boxes filled with paper. I am speaking now about the non-digital age - seems way back but it is actually less than a decade ago that everything was put on real paper. Anyway, the paperwork in front of me was the result of months, sometimes years of work done by a design team. And I got usually a couple of weeks to find out what they exactly wanted and how much it would cost for our contractor team to turn this paperwork into reality over the months, mostly years to come. 
So the pressure was on ! 
It was balancing on the edge; always going as cheap as possible gratefully using the mistakes and voids in the paperwork. Always hoping you would end up first by less than 2% under the second price. Finishing first with a bigger difference and you could start sweating: where is the mistake ? And ending somewhere else in the ranking always sucked, no matter where you stranded. All your work of the past weeks went straight down the drain. But there was no time for grieving or extensive joy because there was the next box to be analysed.

And the boxes kept coming and the prices for buildings kept finding their way out of the door. But never were you really part of a team: you analysed what the design team had done and you tried to predict what the contractor team would do. Yes, I had a nice office but it was lonely in there. And over the years, the quality of the paperwork dropped, the time for analysing got shorter and the assistants you had for administration disappeared because of severe remediation .

"Design-bid-build" really cuts the building process in two. And the way the bid is done puts the two teams at state of war. Sometimes it gets even vicious. To get that assignment the contractor works hard: one out of ten offers made ends in a real contract. Indeed, I wasn't the only one to receive that box and to work for several weeks in a fancy office ! At least 7 other collegues got that same box and where expected to make a bid. With 8 competitors the design team would surely get the lowest price ! 
And when times are tough, the prices drop even more. So if you see mistakes or voids, you keep your mouth shut and work on solutions behind the scene. Once the contract signed, you put your cards on the table. And the changes required to realise the building don't come cheap. But in order to survive, the contractor has no choice but to play the game by these rules. And the victim is the owner: he sees his lowest bid increased by 20, 30, ... %

And all the time I  felt stuck in the middle. Why wasn't it possible for both teams to work together on the design ? I could join this mixed team and do the quantity take-off and estimation as an independent consultant ... that's my dream and that is what BouwData is created for !

How ? See next time in part 2 :o)

Kind regards,