Explaining BouwData - part 5

To realise a building you need money. Whether you are a developer, designer or constructor it is the same amount of money you're talking about. The way you look at this sum is, on the contrary, totally different. This I made clear in one of my previous blogs. Therefore, to gain knowledge I created three codes:
  • the development code for developers with emphasis on floor surfaces
  • the object code for designer with emphasis on functions
  • the material code for constructors with emphasis on materials
Today, I'm going to give you some background on the material code.
To the developers and designers who are thinking: "this doesn't interest me at all !" and whose finger is now moving to the little cross in the right top corner of the screen, I would like to ask to hold on a second. Your attitude is typical 20th century. In the 21th century it is all about transparency and communication (*). And in order to communicate properly, you have to know how the other person thinks and what his needs are. So, please, take a good glas of wine and continue reading. You won't regret it :o)
Having this off my chest, let's go back to the material code. This code is all about how and with what kind of material you are going to realise the building. To know what's available on the market, Google is an excellent tool. But for some products you have standard contracts and certain knowhow is the same in every project. This knowhow is sometimes even exclusive for your own company. So, beside a good search engine on the internet,  you also need a little database of your own to store adresses of favourite suppliers and subcontractors, to keep interesting offers which might be interesting for other assignments in the future and to write down the personal knowledge you gain while working your way through several projects. At least, I felt this need and I see that fellow estimators are struggling with the same issues. A lot of them invent their own structure for this database. I prefer to work according to existing standards. And for this problem there are two possibilities: table 2 and 3 of SfB or the STABU from Holland.
At first I tried to work according to the SfB because this is a worldwide spread classification method for construction. This meant analysing every single thing you purchased by material and by form. For concrete this is simple enough: it will be poured on site so according to table 2 we have code E. And it is made out of sand and stones bind together through a chemical process using water and cement. According to table 3 we have code f2. Together you write it down as Ef2. The code of an Argex block is Ff5. But what with a toilet ? In an estimation this is usually offered by a subcontractor for one single price. No problem: in table 2 I had X for complex shapes and in table 3 I had a if I didn't want to specify anything or if I simple didn't know whether the material was made of organic or anorgonic stuff.
Mission accomplished ?
Since I am quite a perfectionist I spend a lot of time to make sure that the Xa category was kept to a minimum and explaining to people why they should use f2 and not f5. 
Now I had a fairly large Excel file and could start sorting. Problem: in alphabetical order I got a list which hadn't anything to do with the order of materials coming on site. And searching on codes was really hard since there wasn't any connection with the word (nor in Dutch, nor in English) so memorising was a nightmare.
Mission failed, yes ! 

And now I also knew why people in Holland so firmly sticked to their STABU :o)
So, I tried it that way but added something to make it even better: I used the coding of STABU chapters and STABU paragraphs and added a 2 to 4 lettercombination. Poured concrete became 21.50.BET (concrete is beton in Dutch), classical wooden formwork became 21.32.HOUT (wood is hout in Dutch), etc. All items concerning pouring concrete on site were gathered in the 21 chapter, all masonry in chapter 22; just as the order you encounter these items while realising the building.
The 2 to 4 letterword had several advantages: it helped to memorise the codes and it allowed me to make distinctions or add items as much as I wanted to. E.g. next to classical wooden formwork, you also have things like Framax, a system of panels to construct the formwork or additional layers to add texture to the concrete surface. These are all different suppliers but are all to be estimated in the paragraph 21.32 contemporary formwork. In the material code I have now:
  • 21.32.HOUT bekistingshout
  • 21.32.MAT structuurmatten
  • 21.32.SYS systeembekisting
And if a contractor wants another category, well, he simply has to search the according STABU chapter and paragraph and add a two to for lettercode to make the distinction with the other categories in the paragraph.
Another exemple: suppose you have a young trainee estimator in your company who needs to estimate pile foundations inside a building which needs to be renovated - or you as designer or developer start getting an interest in technical solutions ;o)
Instead of starting a search on Google, he or she could start her search in the companies database by using the material code 20.32.REN as a key: 
  • in the database with adresses he can find the subcontractors the company already worked with
  • in the database with company related experience she knows the additional things to pay attention to
  • in the database with ancient offers, he can see the level of cost to expect
So before bumping into your office, the trainee already knows the basics and the time spent together can be used to focus on the SWOT of the project itself. Quite efficient !
But on top of that, the material code in combination with the cost type and the number of the supplier or the number of your library also form the "atoms" of an estimation. 
  • 21.50.BET.10.000 - labour pouring concrete
  • 21.50.BET.20.25/30EE2/EA1S320 - concrete C25/30-GB-EE2/EA1-S3-20mm (**)
  • 21.50.BET.30.32 - concrete pump with a reach of 32m
  • 21.50.BET.40.XXX - subcontractor who makes component XXX with his own material and equipment
I am now using this code for six years and never find myself in any trouble. A new material gets his own material code and the possibilities of creating "atoms" for my estimation are endless.
So I, like the people from Holland, am 100% pro STABU :o)
The material code in pdf format can be found on www.bouwdata.net under "downloads".
If you want to receive the material code in Excel format, just send me a mail pbo [at] pbcalcenconsult [dot] be.
Unfortunately the material code only exists in Dutch. So, if anyone who speaks English from when he or she was a todler and learned "construction" Dutch during his professional carrier, please contact me as well ! Because I would love to make an English version of it.
Kind regards and enjoy the sun !
(*) look around you and read Alvin Toflers "Third Wave" and after that "The New Normal" by Peter Hinssen and you'll know what I am talking about ;o)
(**) another possibility is to use a simpler number after the cost type. We used to do this because in some estimation software you needed to type the entire code manually.  The disadvantage was that if there comes another type of concrete on the market who is something between two existing types, it ends up at the end of the line with the next number. In modern estimation software you "click" or "drag" the code. So it is better to use a longer code which leaves room for new products to find their place between existing ones.