Invaluable by Any Estimation
ASPE San Diego Chapter #4 measures its 50 years in service
When it was founded in 1970, San Diego became only the fourth local chapter of the 14-years-young American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE). As it prepares to mark its 50th anniversary, it is recognized as one of the society’s Top 5 chapters for its contributions to this construction discipline, to its practitioners and to the San Diego community.
ASPE is one of the very few national organizations within the building and construction industry that caters strictly to professional construction estimators. It provides its members and others within the industry with focused programming, fellowship, continuous education and invaluable career development opportunities.
Keeping Current Amid Change
Professional construction estimators understand the need to continually improve their skills and knowledge to stay marketable, regardless of their role, career stage or the type of organization they work for. That’s where ASPE shines.
“We touch on all areas of construction cost estimating because we have individuals just entering the profession, midcareer practitioners looking to advance, and others who need support staying up-to-date on new developments,” relates Frank Young, FCPE, San Diego Chapter #4 Treasurer.
Over the last 20 years, Young, a past president of the chapter and national ASPE, has seen many changes that affect estimators’ ability to do their jobs. These include such areas as basic quantity takeoff procedures, establishing proper productivity rates and pricing General Requirements and General Conditions. “All estimators should be looking at the project the same way so that when general contractors receive multiple bids from subcontractors, they can review their scopes and perform bid leveling to compare apples to apples. Everything must be accurately analyzed with applicable inclusions/exclusions to satisfy the general contractors’ needs. That’s what makes ASPE’s educational programs and resources so valuable.”
Anticipating and Adapting
As the society’s audiences continually evolve, the challenge is always preparing for the future. “How do you adapt to what’s happening in the industry—not just the technical aspects, but other issues, such as how priorities change with personnel?” Young asks.
For example, Young cites the green building movement that began some 30 years ago. In the early days of the organization, ecofriendly building aspects were not considered in the design.
“But, now, nearly every commercial project earns LEED certification, is sustainable and is built for zero energy use. Here in California, the state imposed Title 24 standards on buildings, which address energy efficiency,” Young explains. “Now, we have to figure in the costs of attaining Gold- or Platinum-level LEED accreditation when estimating projects. Those were things not previously taught in the industry. It shows how much we have to be resilient, adapt to change and be good social partners.”
No Substitute for Experience
Today’s practitioners have to become proficient in many types of cutting-edge technology to clarify job requirements, address a project’s full scope and evaluate proposals from subcontractors and vendors. “By taking advantage of our presentations on new products during meetings, seminars and office/site visits, estimators have the opportunity to learn about the newest systems and technologies and see whether they are worth the investment,” Young says. “These programs help them understand the options available and choose what’s most appropriate for their businesses.”
Chapter President Paul Chang, CPE, a Preconstruction Manager with Balfour Beatty, has also observed generational differences in how professional estimators seek out information and use all the new tools. “Millennials want to do everything on their phones or tablets and would rather seek out and rely on a blog or watch a video to learn,” he says. “These changing preferences are a key reason why ASPE offers so many online classes.”
However, both chapter officers have observed that some fresh-out-of-school estimators tend to rely on technology rather than apply their acquired knowledge and fundamentals of the estimating process.
“They assume that the quantities generated in a software’s 3D model are perfect when looking for different objects. However, less-experienced individuals may neglect to consider items that aren’t required to be represented in the 3D model. Omitting such information results in an incomplete scope when estimators extract quantities from the model,” Young explains. “If a budding, tech-savvy estimator expects instant answers, they soon discover when they press the button that the generated values are not valid. With the guidance of seasoned ASPE professionals, estimators-in-training learn that it takes more knowledge in specific areas to complete an estimate with little or no margin of error.”
“That’s why we all must continually learn about the latest updates and stay abreast of new techniques to ensure best practices,” Chang asserts. “Technology provides a useful tool for the profession, but it can’t replace an estimator’s analytical skill sets and judgment.”
Thinking Young to Create Early Interest
ASPE San Diego puts a lot of effort into making careers in construction estimation attractive to young people, whether they are considering career options during high school or college or just entering the profession. The upturn in construction has made estimating jobs abundant and increased demand for talent. Through a variety of programming, presentations and discussions, the chapter communicates that estimating offers a viable career path in construction. This helps students see that there are lucrative opportunities beyond being a project engineer or manager.
Each year, ASPE San Diego strives to bring this message to the engineering departments and construction management programs at area schools. Young estimates that the chapter has provided 20 scholarships of $500-$2,000 and another 20 worth $2,000-$3,000 to graduating high school seniors and college students enrolled in architecture, construction and engineering programs.
Site visits are especially interesting to students, who can see the different types of construction industry environments. A few ASPE members who are teachers at area institutions also host site tours, often attracting 30-35 participants. These include tours at the new College of Engineering building at San Diego State University and medical and laboratory facilities at the University of California San Diego.
Uniting Education and Community Involvement
San Diego ASPE Chapter members, along with regional architects and contractors, are involved in mentoring high school students at 14 high schools in the San Diego area through the nationwide ACE Mentor Program of America. ACE provides an after-school curriculum and awards scholarships to deserving individuals. Students identify a specific project, develop the design, create a model, estimate the costs and prepare a schedule. They present the details of their project at a luncheon before an audience composed solely of construction professionals. In addition, the chapter assists the Stanley E. Foster School of Engineering, Innovation and Design at Kearny High School and serves on its board of directors.
Members of ASPE San Diego Chapter #4 have been avid supporters of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). Partnering through NAWIC’s Future Construction Leaders Foundation–San Diego, ASPE has sponsored Camp NAWIC San Diego for the past 12 years.
Camp NAWIC introduces girls in 8th-12th grades to varied opportunities in construction and encourages them to pursue careers as skilled tradespeople or in administrative and technical positions. Through sponsors like ASPE, it provides a unique weeklong, hands-on approach to the trades at no cost to participants. In the first year as apprentices, girls explore such fundamental functions as carpentry, plumbing, sheet metal, surveying and operating heavy machinery. In the second year, as journeymen, they build a project. These have included a greenhouse, athletic equipment storage shed, landscape wall and trellis, doghouses (donated to charity), and solar-powered “she sheds,” which were auctioned off for fundraising. Many of the camp’s graduates return year after year to mentor younger campers and learn new project management skills.
Celebrating 50 Years of Success
On June 27, 2020, the San Diego Chapter will celebrate its 50th Anniversary with a gala dinner where current and past members will gather to toast five decades of success.
“The evening will highlight what’s happened in the past and look forward at ways to best serve those entering our community of professional estimators,” Young says.
Over its 50 years, ASPE San Diego Chapter #4 has earned numerous awards from the national organization. It has been recognized for the quality of its chapter activities in the categories of Best Program, Educational Activity, Fundraiser, Newsletter and Membership Recruitment. It has also been honored annually with numerous Chapter Achievement Awards, singled out most recently in 2018 at the highest (Platinum) level.
Similarly, many individual chapter members have distinguished themselves nationally within the ASPE. Three have served as national presidents; four members have earned the prestigious designation of ASPE Fellow; and five San Diego members have been honored as National Estimator of the Year.
“We have clearly made an impact on our industry,” says Young. “It’s all about service.”