Factors affecting the accuracy of engineers' estimates

Skitmore, Martin (1988) Factors affecting the accuracy of engineers' estimates. In Proceedings, 10th International Cost Engineering Congress, The American Association of Cost Engineers, American Association of Cost Engineers, New York.


Emerging sciences, such as conceptual cost estimating, seem to have to go through two phases. The first phase involves reducing the field of study down to its basic ingredients - from systems development to technological development (techniques) to theoretical development. The second phase operates in the direction in building up techniques from theories, and systems from techniques. Cost estimating is clearly and distinctly still in the first phase. A great deal of effort has been put into the development of both manual and computer based cost estimating systems during this first phase and, to a lesser extent, the development of a range of techniques that can be used (see, for instance, Ashworth & Skitmore, 1986). Theoretical developments have not, as yet, been forthcoming.

All theories need the support of some observational data and cost estimating is not likely to be an exception. These data do not need to be complete in order to build theories. As it is possible to construct an image of a prehistoric animal such as the brontosaurus from only a few key bones and relics, so a theory of cost estimating may possibly be found on a few factual details.

The eternal argument of empiricists and deductionists is that, as theories need factual support, so do we need theories in order to know what facts to collect. In cost estimating, the basic facts of interest concern accuracy, the cost of achieving this accuracy, and the trade off between the two. When cost estimating theories do begin to emerge, it is highly likely that these relationships will be central features.

This paper presents some of the facts we have been able to acquire regarding one part of this relationship - accuracy, and its influencing factors. Although some of these factors, such as the amount of information used in preparing the estimate, will have cost consequences, we have not yet reached the stage of quantifying these costs. Indeed, as will be seen, many of the factors do not involve any substantial cost considerations.

The absence of any theory is reflected in the arbitrary manner in which the factors are presented. Rather, the emphasis here is on the consideration of purely empirical data concerning estimating accuracy. The essence of good empirical research is to .minimize the role of the researcher in interpreting the results of the study. Whilst space does not allow a full treatment of the material in this manner, the principle has been adopted as closely as possible to present results in an uncleaned and unbiased way. In most cases the evidence speaks for itself.

The first part of the paper reviews most of the empirical evidence that we have located to date. Knowledge of any work done, but omitted here would be most welcome. The second part of the paper presents an analysis of some recently acquired data pertaining to this growing subject.

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ID Code: 59700
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > BUILDING (120200) > Quantity Surveying (120203)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Civil Engineering & Built Environment
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Please consult the author. Copyright 1988.
Deposited On: 06 May 2013 01:16
Last Modified: 06 May 2013 02:01

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