Not any more. E-asybudget, a new on-line service launched by Barrett Steel Buildings, is set to revolutionise the way steelwork is priced. The company has introduced the UK’s first on-line cost planning service for portal-framed buildings. By logging on to its web site, designers, quantity surveyors, contractors and developers can obtain instant prices for steelwork over the Internet.
The web site is not just a collection of schedules and prices. It is much more sophisticated than that. The software driving the programme has been created to allow engineers to design the building on screen, in real time, using a bespoke software package developed by Barrett’s engineers. This package designs the steelwork specifically for each building, based on the spatial and loading values input by the user. The software then calculates a budget price based on this design.
Before being let loose on the site, designers must first obtain a password. This is done by registering at the company’s web site, at www.barrettonline.co.uk. Once accepted, the site creates a secure on-line account where the user can save project details and quotations, and update or modify them.
To obtain a price for the steelwork, all users have to do is click on the E-asybudget icon on Barrett’s home page and work through a list of prompts. This should take no longer than a couple of minutes. For users who are new to the system, the software designers have provided a help icon next to each prompt that gives a short explanation of what information they need to input. This includes things like dimensions, location and type of roof.
To calculate the price, the program measures the amount of steel that will be used in the building and estimates the cost and time of fabrication, based on the company’s own fabrication facilities. The price also includes the cost of design, delivery and erection of the steelwork. Current costing information taken directly from the company’s database is used in the calculations. “This means that the material, transport costs and labour prices are always up to date,” says Andrew Marston, Barrett’s commercial manager.
The program does more than simply price the superstructure, however. To allow designers to assess the cost of foundations, it also produces a table of loads that the building’s frame will impose on the ground. And, having obtained a price, users are then given the option to download a full specification for the scheme. This details the building’s key dimensions, what the foundation loads will be and how the frame will be fixed to them, lists codes and standards for the steelwork, states what assumed loads the services will impart on the structure and details the surface treatments to the steel. This document is in Microsoft Word so that it can be pasted directly into the designer’s project documentation. There is even a facility that allows users to e-mail this quotation to other members of the design team.
Although the service was initially developed to cost steelwork for portal-framed buildings, there are plans to extend it to include cladding. Barrett has teamed up with a cladding supplier and is about to start work on this option. This will allow users to obtain a cost estimate for the whole of a building’s superstructure.
Marston is at pains to point out that E-asybudget is exactly what it claims to be – a budget costing tool. Users still need to submit scheme designs to Barrett for it to be able to provide full fabrication drawings. However, having obtained a budget price for the steelwork in seconds, at least there should be no nasty surprises when the actual price arrives some days later.