Driving the Future of Preconstruction with DESTINI Estimator

Progressive estimating tool empowers Balfour Beatty teams to deliver greater cost precision and predictability 

The conventional profile of a construction estimator once included pouring over paper drawings fresh off the plotter. A day in the life of today’s estimator, however, looks much different. To keep pace with the speed of today’s projects and effectively manage costs in a volatile market, estimators must leverage leading-edge technologies to deliver greater cost precision and predictability.

At Balfour Beatty, DESTINI Estimator software is empowering our preconstruction teams to create parametric estimates and model-based estimates—two advanced capabilities that are significantly streamlining the estimating process and delivering greater and earlier cost certainty. 

As the industry contends with persistent market volatility, more and more owners are turning to contractors to produce reliable estimates at the ‘napkin sketch’ phase of project development. And that’s precisely what DESTINI Estimator delivers through parametric estimates. Using only high-level project data such as total building square footage or elevations from schematic plans, DESTINI Estimator can extrapolate an estimate based on Balfour Beatty’s live database of current and historical costs, which are maintained on both a local and national level. 

In the past when estimators leveraged local market knowledge and historical trends to manually predict costs, this process might have been likened to “throwing a dart blindfolded” according to Landon McQuestion, director of preconstruction and estimating in California. At this stage, an estimator may not even possess fundamental building details such as HVAC systems. But with DESTINI Estimator, Landon says, there is “a laser shining directly on the bullseye.” 

Beyond the value parametric estimates deliver for clients and partners, DESTINI Estimator greatly reduces the time once required to manually create estimates from schematic drawings. Days or perhaps even weeks of tedious work can now be accomplished in just a few short clicks. 

While parametric estimates are a differentiator at the schematic phase, they can also be incredibly powerful tool for public clients that rely on bond funding. Often, bond packages are developed with very general knowledge of building needs many years in advance. As the No. 3 top education builder in both California and the Southeast (Engineering News-Record, 2021), Balfour Beatty leverages DESTINI Estimator to empower our K-12 and higher education partners with accurate cost predictions.

Across our US Buildings operations, Balfour Beatty maintained a 97% repeat client rate in 2020. And while our consistent delivery of operational excellence is key to achieving this impressive statistic, so too are the industry-leading preconstruction services our teams provide. “You blow one estimate, and a client’s going to remember that,” cautions Landon. 

In addition, DESTINI Estimator’s ability to integrate 3D models into estimates creates significantly greater efficiency and accuracy throughout design development. As the model evolves, DESTINI seamlessly incorporates and updates new design details and quantities, eliminating the once time-consuming process of repeated take-offs. 

Beyond these enhanced estimating capabilities, Balfour Beatty has actively collaborated with the developer of DESTINI Estimator, Beck Technology, to integrate DESTINI with Power Business Intelligence (BI), a robust visual data and metrics platform. This creates a highly accessible and searchable in-house repository of every estimate created across Balfour Beatty’s US Buildings operations. The repository informs new parametric estimates, which adds an additional layer of efficiency and accuracy to the estimating process. 

“Many contractors talk about live estimating, but they’re working off of software that’s two decades old that simply doesn’t possess the capability,” says Landon. “At Balfour Beatty, we walk the talk – and that’s becoming an increasingly important differentiator in winning work.”

After Oxnard Unified School District awarded our team with the $178 million New Del Sol High School project in Oxnard, California last November, the owner put our mettle to the test with the accelerated delivery of an extensive estimate encompassing 1,700 pages of construction documents. Thanks to our adoption of DESTINI Estimator which enabled multiple teammates to remotely collaborate on the estimate simultaneously, our team successfully delivered on the owner’s expectations. When the project went to bid, the estimate only deviated a mere .05% from the actual cost. 

“Clients are focused on preconstruction, because they’re focused on controlling costs and they’re looking to us [Balfour Beatty] to help achieve that goal,” adds Landon. 

Equipment, materials and labor—a construction estimator must possess up-to-date knowledge of the industry’s complex ecosystem to prepare the most competitive and cost-effective estimates. The day-to-day workflow of an estimator is equal parts science and art—combined into one seamless process that’s something akin to magic. With tools like DESTINI Estimator, Balfour Beatty’s preconstruction teams are empowered to deliver best-in-class value in service to our clients and partners.