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Cost Engineer

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What is a cost engineer?

As a producer/evaluator of facts, the cost engineer perceives and explains risks to the client, as well as offering possible solutions.

The cost engineer is a resource of analytical and organizational power that allows clients to use their money efficiently, a professional who worries about your money before you spend it, so you won’t have to worry afterwards.

Cost Engineering in the Past

Economic systems developed as the earliest evidence of civilization, and, although there was no profession specifically called cost engineering in the time of antiquity, there was certainly some means whereby costs, time and materials were managed. The ruins of ancient cities are proof that the costs of large scale construction could be successfully negotiated even then. History suggests that the Egyptian kings had a chief administrator and a staff of kinsmen working on the pyramids. Were some of these ancients “cost engineers”? You bet!


The activity of determining costs for construction is not new, but recently experienced estimators are being acknowledged for the sophisticated services they provide in today’s complex construction industry. Building codes, availability of materials, labor union concerns, insurance requirements, schedule constraints, specialty equipment and design are just some of the concerns of a modern cost engineer. The profession has taken on a more precise character with appropriate curriculum being developed for students. Future cost engineers will be certified and recognized in their essential role in construction.

Questions Asked by Cost Engineers

How much? And will it return a profit? Builders need accurate and timely answers to these questions. Cost consulting professionals need to be available during the inception and design stage as well as throughout construction. The dynamics of a project could require week by week monetary advice and solutions. A qualified cost engineer is the key to eliminating waste and staying within a project’s budget.

Training Skills and Experience of Cost Engineers

Unlike traditional estimating, cost engineering requires more direct involvement with a project from beginning to end. Conceptual estimating requires imagination; the cost engineer must be able to accomplish a “mind’s eye” construction to produce a good, initial estimate of a developer’s idea. Value engineering is a cost study to analyze cost options relative to the design. The cost engineer could also be called upon to develop ways to save money and present ideas for the appropriate or imaginative use of excess funds. Accurate numbers are at the core of the profession, but cost engineers are also expected to be avid listeners and excellent communicators. Clients need someone who understands their ideas and can communicate eloquently regarding the costs.

Cost engineers are educated in construction management and estimating as well as familiarization with architecture, speech and writing. However, nothing replaces field experience for the training of a cost engineer. It provides a sense of the practical sequence of the various phases of construction, and a firsthand observation of the time and effort of tradespersons is necessary for understanding how a job really gets done.

Architects and Cost Engineers

The complete separation of architectural creativity and the cost of construction is a luxury relegated to the realm of theory; the complex process of actual construction must consider the financial plausibility of a project. The role of the cost engineer is to indicate costs and recommend appropriate remedies in order to stay within budget. Since no architect’s work is realized without the financial means to get the job done, the cost engineer can be an important partner in the architectural process. However, the cost engineer only determines what is more expensive, not what is too expensive.

The Client and the Cost Engineer

There is no typical client for a cost engineer; anyone in, or outside, the industry could need a cost consultant. Clients could be developers, architects, government agencies, retailers, contractors, manufacturers and even attorneys. The cost engineer must be personable and able to understand the client’s needs. The client must depend on a consulting professional to do something that they are not able to do for themselves. Carrying references and demonstrating integrity in the initial meeting is important to clients.

 
 
 
 

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