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Electrical Feature of the Month: Takeoffs

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Design Master Electrical 7.1, released in October 2008, included a new quantity takeoff feature. Originally, this feature was available only to customers who purchased Design Master Electrical Contractor. With Design Master Electrical 8.0, we decided to eliminate the Contractor version of our software and provide the takeoff feature to everyone.

The takeoff feature allows you to do a complete takeoff of your electrical project. It provides a count of all the light fixtures, receptacles, pieces of equipment, panels, and breakers, and the length of branch circuits and feeders. The branch circuit lengths are determined based upon the location of the loops on the drawing.

We originally envisioned this feature providing real value to both engineers and design-build contractors. Unfortunately, we have found that it is difficult with this feature to get the information to the right people at the right time.

For engineering firms, sharing this information with the contractor is a problem. Providing quantity counts and lengths in this level of detail opens you up to more liability than most firms are interested in. However, there is value in this information. Every contractor bidding a project has to count and calculate all of this information. That cost is built in to the contractor’s bid and eventually is paid for by the developer or building owner.

We envisioned a revolution based upon this value that the takeoff could provide. What if the engineer provided that takeoff information to the contractors for an additional charge? Or to the building owner? Some engineers told us that, on a matter of principle, they would never provide this information. But we thought there would be someone out there, for the right price, willing to give this a try. Now that all of our customers have access to this feature, maybe it will happen.

For design-build firms, sharing information was never the problem. Instead, the information came too late. When they are bidding on a project, they have not designed it yet with our software. Once the bid is won and they are doing the design, there is little value in a more accurate cost-estimate, because the price is fixed at this point. However, the project still has to be built. More accurate counts and lengths should have value during construction, even if they can not be used during the bid.