How to produce accurate lighting estimates

Estimating best practices
How to produce accurate lighting estimates

When it comes to tendering for an electrical project many estimators will begin with lighting design and sourcing. Obtaining pricing for components can take time, so the sooner this begins the better.

How are lighting requirements calculated?

Most estimators follow a set process when it comes to estimating lighting on projects. Here are the three steps a lighting estimator would usually follow:

1. Count light fixtures by type

Estimators will receive PDF drawings and will usually start with their luminaries category, containing symbols such as A, AE and EM, relating to specific lighting fixtures. 

This may be manually, working either clockwise or anticlockwise across the drawing and marking each fixture as counted, or using an automated takeoff software which automatically counts each fixture after it has been selected just once. 

2. Count switches and lighting control

The second category within an electrical estimate is often lighting control and switches. This will contain symbols such as PIR (passive infrared sensor) as well as various switches. 

3. Measure linear footage

Lastly, electrical estimators will look at measuring any lighting requirements by area, points or length. Linear measurement is useful for estimating feature lighting, containment runs, cabling and conduit.  

How to produce accurate lighting estimates

With the right tools and process, you can produce accurate lighting estimates much faster. In fact, some of our customers have been able to boost the number of quotes going out by 20% by swapping manual counts using pen, paper and highlighters, to using automated takeoff like Countfire for lighting and lighting control.

Here’s how our type of takeoff software can help teams to produce faster, more accurate lighting estimates:

1. Use true auto counts to takeoff lighting symbols 

As mentioned, using automated software for lighting takeoff can really speed up your estimating process. 

As well as the ability to autocount symbols, takeoff software will also often contain tools for linear measurement to estimate LED strips or extrusion lighting that can be made to any length.

Zones, which allow you to split symbols into sections, can be useful for removing unnecessary items and ensuring that your final estimate is broken down into the correct quantities.

For example, your drawings may depict two items such as general sockets and sockets from DADO trunking as one symbol, but by using a zone you can break these out separately on your estimate and produce a different cost for each one.

demarcation tool within Countfire for lighting estimates

2. Standardise the process and workflow

When you have lots of estimators working across your projects each one may adopt their own way of working, particularly when working manually. 

When performing a takeoff with a tool like Countfire, inbuilt workflows create a project lifecycle that can be followed each time you estimate. 

This lifecycle ensures all estimators are working in the same way, and that estimating managers can checkover work more quickly, and ensure that all devices have been itemised correctly.

This is particularly relevant when calculating lighting estimates in larger settings like train stations, universities and prisons. 

3. Separate lighting fixture symbols by colour

Colour-coding is a technique known to help improve memory capacity as it makes us pay more attention to the information being processed. If you’ve been doing manual lighting counts for a while you’ll likely have a whole pot of highlighters.

In Countfire we advise choosing a colour for each symbol, to help you differentiate and make your final estimates easier for the client to decipher. This also helps when estimates are passed to other departments, clearly breaking down each estimate by symbol. 

Here’s an example of how a lighting takeoff would look once all of the counts are complete, before the pricing has been added:

Demo of a lighting estimate from Countfire

Once all of the lighting requirements have been selected and counted, most estimators will begin reaching out to gather prices for each element. They may also involve a Lighting Control partner who can help source intelligent lighting control systems. These are sometimes a requirement when working on public or private tenders to save on energy and carbon output. 

4. Review and revise your lighting estimate 

Checking for accuracy is a key part of lighting estimation, as missing just one symbol or drawing could cause a huge discrepancy to your project cost. Depending on the change order process you may also have revisions that come in before or after the initial estimate.

Countfire has four stages of checking within the project workflow to ensure you never miss a symbol or drawing. 

Similarly if there are discrepancies between you and your suppliers, Countfire gives you a way to go back and check your estimates and compare notes. When Kevin at lighting control company Open Technology, found he had a different lighting count to his contractor, they were both able to revisit Countfire and quickly decipher that the other contractor had missed a drawing. 

If they’d been working manually this kind of problem solving just wouldn’t have been possible over the phone and with two different sets of printed drawings. 

Final thoughts

Being able to create accurate and fast lighting estimates will help your company to have greater success at completing and winning new tenders. Using Countfire can seriously speed up your estimating process, and give you something to fall back on if you ever need to make changes. Get a free trial today and see how Countfire would work for your lighting estimates.