Camera Labor Estimation Standard

By Brian Rhodes, Published Nov 19, 2014, 12:00am EST

IPVM is proud to release the first ever surveillance camera labor estimation standards.

These standards help integrators improve the accuracy and efficiency of their installations, reducing risks and cost.

Global Survey

We developed these standards based on a global survey of integrators who provided in-depth responses on how much time and what factors impact their installs.

6 Core Scenarios

The standards focus on 6 fundamental scenarios where integrators routinely install cameras:

  • Low Indoor Tile / Grid Ceiling
  • High Indoor Hard Panel Ceiling
  • High Outdoor Commercial Building
  • High Outdoor Masonry Column
  • Pre-prepped Freestanding Pole
  • Flat Mount Roof

Description and Image Provided

To ascertain richer and more meaningful responses, we provided an image of the scenario and a description of the area.

For example, in the "Low Indoor Tile / Grid Ceiling", we described it as such to integrators:

"The location has 1/2" thick fiber acoustic tile suspended from grid, with no existing backing material or needed plenum rating, located 8' - 10' above the floor. Cabling has previously been run and terminated to the mounting spot. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area? Why?"

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With the following image provided:

Each of the other scenarios had the same information and visuals.

Responses In-Depth

Integrators provided us both a number, in terms of hours, and a description of the key factors that impacted them (tools, safety concerns, logistical limitations, etc.)

We then tabulated a range of hours estimated, an avearge hour estimate plus color commentary on the issues impacting their estimates.

For each of the six locations, we averaged the responses for each into a single 'global average' value. Those are given below:

  • Low Indoor Tile / Grid Ceiling: 0.95 manhours
  • High Indoor Hard Panel Ceiling: 1.65 manhours
  • High Outdoor Commercial Building: 2.75 manhours
  • High Outdoor Masonry Column: 3.50 manhours
  • Pre-prepped Freestanding Pole: 2.50 manhours
  • Flat Mount Roof: 2.51 manhours

In the sections that follow, we examine each location in greater detail, showing the full spread of votes and color comments from response that illustrate the results.

Our questions made no distintion between the estimate being for a sales/service call, or as part of a bidded project. However, that situation could impact how much time is estimated purely on the logistics of moving tools, setting up, or otherwise 'making a job worthwhile'.

Low Indoor Tile / Grid Ceiling

First up: an indoor acoustic tile/ grid ceiling location 'low' enough to reach by stepladder. 

Below are excerpts from our full update on the results. The actual survey question asked was:

"The location has 1/2" thick fiber acoustic tile suspended from grid, with no existing backing material or needed plenum rating, located 8' - 10' above the floor. Cabling has previously been run and terminated to the mounting spot. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area? Why?"

Results: Over 75% of all responses fell between 0.5 to 1.0 manhours. The full spread is shown below:

Tile Reinforcement: Biggest Cost Variable

One aspect of the install not addressed by the question was whether or not the tile needed to be reinforced first. We deliberately did not include this detail, as to avoid biasing the answers to a specific mounting approach (ie: Not permitting use of grid clamps, if preferred). In most cases, if installers discussed tile reinforcement, their estimates were higher. 

  • "About 45 min. I have to install a backbox across the bridge, cut the tile, install and adjust the camera and then clean up."
  • "I would estimate the camera install to take 1.5 hours. This is due to needing a mounting bracket to be installed across t-rails and physical mounting."
  • "You need about 1 hour and 30 min to mount the camera since you need to drill and catch the cables and be able to enforce the back of the camera to be hold on the ceiling."
  • "1.5 hour to mount. This is allowing for mounting of a dome that has been pre-configured with the correct IP address. Technician will remove tile, make cable hole, mount camera using a wooden back-plate."
  • "1 hour minimum, depending on the camera model. We will typically install a "Caddy bar" support that spans the grid, and that supports the weight of the camera, which is mounted through the tile."

The average of all answers is 0.95 manhours for this location.

High Indoor Hard Panel Ceiling

The survey question asked: "The location is hard ceiling/drywall sheathed, located 12' - 15' above the floor. Cabling has previously been run and terminated to the mounting spot. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area? Why?"

Results: Over 60% of all responses fell between 1.0 to 2.0 manhours. The full spread is shown below:

Lift or No Lift?: Biggest Cost Variable

A surprising driver of increased time was whether or not integrators estimated this location by use of a lift. In general, estimates were higher for those responses choosing a manlift over a long stepladder. The prime factor in the increased time is needing a spotter or safety man on the floor.

  • "3 hours. Expect much slower productivity because an articulated lift will be required to access the mounting location."
  • "6 Hours. Hard install, lift and protective mats needed. Extra care needed due to environment."
  • "1.5 man hours. May involve 2nd man for lift safety."
  • "3 hours, because the man on the ground keeps the area safe around the lift."

Contrast those times using a lift, with the responses choosing a ladder. Many of these did not include a second person spotting the work from the floor:

  • "I would allow 0.5 MH to move a ladder into position, drill your penetration for the wire/whip, mount the camera to the drywall using walldogs, then clean up behind."
  • " 30 mins, Depending on whether it is a high traffic area or not it could take longer. 25 mins to get the appropriate ladder, and mount the camera, 5 mins to clean any debris."
  • "One hour, install bracket, adjust camera and clean up. I am using a bigger ladder so that comes into play."

The average of all answers is 1.65 manhours for this location.

High Outdoor Commercial Building

The survey question asked: "The location is outside, unreachable from roof, 22' -30' above ground, on corrugated steel sheathing with existing backing board. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area? Why?"

Results: Over 40% of all responses fell between 2.0 to 3.0 manhours. The full spread is shown below:

Lift or Ladder: Biggest Cost Variable

Again, the biggest cost differences came due to use of a manlift or ladder. Several responses noted a ladder would be the safest choice due to the close proximity of overhead power cables into the facility. In general, using a ladder for this 22' - 30' length required the use of a secondary spotter regardless, so the time difference between either option was fairly close:

  • "60 minutes bringing all material and preparing area, especially a good and stable ladder. I would block the area around the ladder for protection."
  • "The mounting (with previous wiring) should be close to two hours, providing a scissor lift for reaching the area."
  • "If closer to 30', we would need a boom lift rental as well. -- 4hrs"
  • "3 hours - this is the easiest of outside camera installs but will take a second man to foot a ladder."
  • "1 hour, 0.5 hr times two persons because of safety regulations. one on the ladder, one is down under."

The average of all answers is 2.75 manhours for this location.

High Outdoor Masonry Column

The survey question asked: "The location is on a brick column, 12' - 15' above ground. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area?"

Results: Over 65% of all responses fell between 2.0 to 4.0 manhours. The full spread is shown below:

Expensive Mounting Location: Biggest Cost Variable

The aspect responsible for much of the cost was the location of the camera, both in terms of being brick mounted and in the front of a pedestrian-trafficked retail center. Several responses noted the extra manpower needed to keep the area around mounting operation safe for nearby public customers. 

  • "We would estimate with a second installer due to the location in a public area for the installers safety on the ladder. If the install was in a private area, we would lean toward a single installer."
  • "3 hours. 1.5 for the guy on the ladder, 1.5 for the safety man on the ground to keep shoppers and vehicles safe."
  • "2 men 2 hours each.  Lift or ladder regardless, need  protection for pedestrians because its a retail location."
  • "1 man working off lift/ safety (depends on how much traffic this business has)."
  • "Logistics are more difficult. Extension ladder or Bucket truck to set up, potential foot traffic, slower and more deliberate because of height, 2 hrs labor."

Another cost driver was drilling anchors through masonry, which require extra time and additional tools. Several installers noted they would suggest alternative mounting locations to avoid lengthy installs:

  • "5 manhours, get tools and get a ladder to the location in the building. Drilling brick can take time depending on how the column is built."
  • "I would estimate 3.5 hours for the install. The added labor is due to the need of a smaller type extension ladder and the use of an SDS hammer drill."
  • "5 hours if you have to drill that brick. Which is stupid. There has to be a better place to mount the camera."

The average of all answers is 3.50 manhours for this location.

Pre-prepped Freestanding Pole

The next survey question asked: "Assume a 25' - 35' pole is already installed/prepped for bracket mount, and all cabling/grounding is available. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area? Why?"

Results: Nearly 60% of all responses fell between 2.0 to 3.0 manhours. The full spread is shown below:

Cabling and Pole Accessibility: Biggest Cost Variable

While our question specifically omitted the cost of running cable to the camera, many responses noted this particular run takes time, and the overall condition and placement of cabling inside the pole is key to how fast the install happens:

  • "3 hours to install camera, assumes a lift is used. Camera will require a bracket, surge suppression, possible work with liquidtite or pvc pipe and fitting."
  • "1-hr hopefully you have all your hardware...considering we are just talking about hardware mounting...because you mention cabling/grounding already is there."
  • "2 hours. Pole mounts take us longer. Especially when fishing the pole, working from lift, connecting to power, etc."
  • "Mounting a camera on this pole would take less than two hours if it were already prepped and cabling was available. This pole exceeds our height for extension ladder use, so a bucket truck or boom lift would be used to install."

The vast majority of answers included plans to use a lift or bucket truck instead of a ladder, often calling out a specialty all-terrian type with stabilizing outriggers. Renting this lift would add cost to an install:

  • "First would get an all terrain lift. As far as mounting is concerned I would estimate 3 hours."
  • "2.0 man hours to mount, sans cabling. $125 bucket truck roll charge."
  • " I would account for 3 MH here to be safe, but it could take less. We would be renting a lift for this project. You need time to load all your tools and supplies into the bucket of the lift, drive it over to this location, elevate it into place, pre-drill and holes needed for mounting, mount the arm and then the camera. You need time to seal if needed."
  • "Two men for two hours each should be sufficient. This will need an all-terrain lift or bucket vehicle for safety. You may need cribbing or ground protection since it appears to be spring and it may be muddy or fragile ground."

The average of all answers is 2.50 manhours for this location.

Flat Mount Roof

Our final camera mounting survey question asked: "This location offers no inside roof access, and camera is to be mounted on existing parapet or tripod mount. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area? Why?"

Results:  Over 65% of all responses fell between 1.5  and 3.0 manhours, with over 45% falling between 1.5 and 2.0 hours. The full spread is shown below:

Roof Mount Condition / Penetration: Biggest Cost Variable

The clearest theme responses noted was aversion to penetrate the roof, even to the point of recommending difference types of cameras and mounting locations to avoid it. Our question asked answers to assuming all cable had already been run and the roof mount was already available, but several installers noted that field verification of those aspect would be required regardless:

  • "You would have to bring the wire out of the roof via a pitch pocket or other so it depends on the availability of that. If that is readily available then figure 60-90 minutes to mount everything."
  • "2.5 hours 24 foot ladder needed, even though the mount is existing you still have to fumble with what is there."
  • "Bad/ old cable penetrations cause thousands in damage.  We avoid reusing them withou rework at all costs."
  • "I'd encourage the customer to re-think this location. 4-5 hours if they insist and the roof penetration would be excluded or written direction from the roofing contractor on how best to penetrate the roof."
  • " I wouldn't be dumb enough to mount it in that fashion. I'd do a dome under the eave with conduit for less money and get the same image."
  • "If it is a junk mount, I wouldn't waste my time trying to reuse it.  I'd prefer to start new, it is likely cheaper."
  • "This should be about four or more hours to cover the time needed to get a customer provided roof penetration, project management,lift or ladder with a two-man install team."
  • "4 hours for an exterior camera. I am assuming any necessary membrane penetrations are already performed by a qualified roofing contractor and like many of the other items, cabling is already run."

The average of all answers is 2.51 manhours for this location.

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