Member Discussion

Why Are Integrators Responsible For Take Offs, Why Oh Why?

Maybe I am naive, maybe I am lazy, but can anyone shed some light on why as an integrator we still have bids where have to do take offs to get equipment counts? Shouldn't the architect or system designer be tasked with providing a hardware schedule which includes counts for each line item?

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Some do, but those almost always get double-checked anyway (because they are wrong).

In many cases, the architect claims their design is a suggestion based on a '90% design' and that the actual system is the responsibility of the installing trade and building owner.

...and then they drive off in their red convertables and black turtlenecks, leaving us holding a handful of rolled floorplans watching them leave.  :(

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...leaving us holding a handful of rolled floorplans watching them leave. 

Not even a grimy USB stick or a flimsy SD card?

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Also, in fairness to all the other trades, they do take-offs too.  At least the good ones.  Those light switches, bathroom faucets, flagpoles, and HVAC grates don't buy themselves.

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Doesn’t “takeoffs” also apply to things that are not simple scalar counts, like length of cable, that require using ones contractor noggin?

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Yes.  This is why bid packages are a mixed bag depending on who writes them.  It's more common for a spec to describe 'bidder must include all _________ for a functional and complete system as described in plans' meaning duct, wire, pipe, carpet, yards of concrete, etc...

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Without takeoffs who would be the lowest (unqualified) bidder?  Someone has to buy the job by missing the most!

Yes, it's quite a pain in the backside.  There is software available to help.  If the data they are providing is BIM based you could use the BIM package to rapidly expedite this.  For PDFs and such there is also some software out there such as Bluebeam that can be used to slightly speed things up and eliminate errors.

 

 

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Drawings and specs are typically intended to communicate the "design intent". It's traditionally been up to the contractor to determine how this design intent will be translated into the actual physical construction of the building.

Different designers provide different levels of detail. For example, I always include equipment schedules that supplement the drawings that I produce. These make it easier to arrive at the total number of devices, but I never provide the totals myself. 

I also rarely specify every single part and piece that goes into an installation. For example, a corner-mounted PTZ camera may consist of only a single part, or multiple parts depending on the specific manufacturer. I specify that a PTZ camera is needed, and leave it up to the bidder to determine the exact quantity and type of parts required.

I want each bidder to take the time to actually go through the drawings page by page when preparing his or her bid. Having to do "take-offs" forces them to do this, and hopefully gain a better understanding of the project requirements before they submit a bid.

Trying to create a list of materials can be a slippery slope - where do you stop? Do you list every fastener, back box, conduit fitting, and accessory required? If you say you are just going to list major pieces of equipment, how do you define "major"?

It is my understanding that this process is different in other parts of the world. I have been told that an independent party known as a "Quantity Surveyor" goes through the drawings and produces a detailed "Bill of Material" list for the project. All contractors submitting a "tender" (bid) use this same list to arrive at their price. Perhaps some IPVM subscribers in other countries can talk more about this.

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Michael, I know you are one smart man but your statement:

I want each bidder to take the time to actually go through the drawings page by page when preparing his or her bid. Having to do "take-offs" forces them to do this, and hopefully gain a better understanding of the project requirements before they submit a bid.

I contend that is is a waste of everyone's time. In a competitive bid situation it should be apples to apples and the only way to do this is to have a concise schedule of equipment. Asking 5 bidders each to do so makes absolutely no sense and definitely ruffles my feathers. But so it is :-)

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Eventually someone has to take the time to figure out what is needed and sometimes this comes at the cost of the customer. If it comes at the cost of the customer then it is usually at the end of the job and it just looks bad. If you are sitting there in front of the consultant do you really want to piss in his wheaties while in front of the customer? So many times I have wanted to do this, I find it best these days to just sit in my dark office and not deal with all the broken RFPs from hell. I am not knocking the value of consultants, architects and engineers but sometimes I am going through someone else's design and just laugh, then cry because the bid is due. 

Signed, tired of broken ass designs.

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" If you are sitting there in front of the consultant do you really want to piss in his wheaties while in front of the customer? So many times I have wanted to do this"

+1

 

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I hate the old "apples to apples" comparison type bids. I'd rather bid a concept, or a solution to a problem and be chosen for my design, ingenuity, fit for purpose, value etc....then just on my ability to bid off a schedule of equipment, purchase it and install it.

reminds me of the old saying......"you get what you spec, not what you expect"

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I believe that if they are bidding then the time for your value adds has passed. They know what they want, or at least think they do. Bids are bad unless the customer puts enough effort into them which they often do not.

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Because the architect/engineer is not responsible for the quantity in your quotations. I agree with Michael Silva, where do I draw the line on what I include quantities for? If I include quantities, how will you use this against me for to charge for change orders? If you let a distributor do your take offs and they were short on their quote, are you going to pay for the missed items out of your pocket? You are buying the material and quoting it, you need to figure out how much you need. 

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I'm sorry but I disagree. First, relying on a distributor to do takeoffs seems absurd to me. Again, why would we create a situation where we need a company, in this case who's main function is to push boxes, to be so critical in this process. The counts should be clearly defined. This is a bid process, the entire goal is to evaluate one response against another. You are trying to find the most qualified and best valued response, plain and simple no? How can you evaluate one company against another if the quantities are not the same? If everything was the same, then you could come to your decision, award the bid and then work with that integrator to further refine the design etc. And guess what - now that they would know they have the job they can put their best foot forward and allocate the human resources necessary to get the job done right.

Why in the world would you not be responsible for your quantities? Didn't you put the plans together? Aren't you responsible for the system to work as the customer requires? You want to rely on companies you have never worked with before to influence your final design? And you want them to do it for free on the 1 in 5 chance that they might win your business? If you can't understand the psychological dynamic of this type of arrangement then you really do not understand business in my opinion.

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I can't think of any of the other construction trades where the designer provides a detailed list of materials to the contractor. Does the architect provide a list of how many yards of concrete, number of 2x4s, and number of sheets of drywall are needed to build a building? Does the mechanical engineer provide a list of how many plumbing fixtures, lengths of pipe and fittings are required? Does the electrical engineer provide a bill of materials showing all the electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, and electrical panels that are needed?   

If the designers of other building systems don't do this, then why should the designers of security/surveillance systems be expected to do so?

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Go visit an electrical switchgear or lighting quotations person at an electrical distributor. Ask them who does the takeoffs. 

How can you provide an accurate assessment of labor requirements and all materials if I give you a simple card reader and camera count? (which is pretty easy to gather from riser diagrams)

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I'm not sure who you are addressing your comment to, plus not sure what you mean about the distributor question.

I can say that the way I estimate my labor is not relevant to this topic. If there is a large discrepancy on the labor between bids it will become apparent that someone made a mistake or is trying to steal the bid.

And yes it can be easy to get counts. But it can also be a nightmare when you have cameras, access control, burg, wifi and other systems, on a building that has 20+ floors and I have to dedicate a person to do all of the takeoffs when we have a million other things going on. It's just unnecessary. 

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Dedicated person to do takeoffs = estimator. Typically these people are employed by contractors, not consultants.

 

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That's how you attain due diligence. Dilly Dilly!

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You would include quantities to qualify functionality. The BOM is a flowchart that achieves functionality but does not have a checksum for errors that come from incorrect quantities. It's like breaking nodes in a petri net because the RFQ document does not qualify all the connections in which flow can be attained.

1 PTZ right here sir, IDC about distances, asbestos, OSHPD, solar moon beams or lightening suppressors, scope says 1 PTZ sir! Ready Break! and please do not open up all the boxes and steal my free pelco flashlights!!

If the intent is to use creativity and experience to overcome vague design solicitations then definitely we will all be on a merry go round of change orders!

 

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Just because that is the way it is does not make it right. I don’t know anything about pouring concrete but wouldn’t it be a simple calculation to know how much concrete would be required? The sub contractor could leave some margin for error but I suspect additional concrete costs less than an additional Axis IP camera so not the end of the world for him or her. And why not specify how many plumbing fixtures, or how many outlets, why in the world would you not do that? The information is there already on the plans no? I agree we can draw the line on minor parts but getting me a reliable count of cameras or door handles shouldn’t be that difficult.

I always feel like the architect is so worried about making a mistake that they are unwilling to accept responsibility for what should be their specification. Technology exists to make all of what I am asking for possible. It is time to rethink this, not only for Div 28 but for all trades.

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Yes technology is the elephant in the room to some dinosaur designers. They must be thinking....."man, if I spec the wrong part there is about 10 security nerds that are going to troll for lulz".

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REVIT makes hardware schedules much easier, AUTOCAD, not so much. We are at the mercy of the architect on which we use.

 

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Take-offs are a conspiracy by Sharpie to get us all to buy more colors of highlighters, by HP to buy more color ink for our plotters, and by 3M to buy more Post-It dots.

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dumb question - why is it called a “take-off” ?

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The phrase “take-off” refers to the estimator taking each of the required materials off a project's blueprint

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