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In today’s building industry, there is very little practical technology or automation after the plans have been completed and passed from the architect to the Homeowner/Builder/Developer. Virtually all projects are drawn in some kind of Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) program so the core of the housing industry starts at the architect’s desktop. In particular, the architect’s computer contains detailed information about the sizes and quantities of products which we call symbols (smart objects) that apply to that particular project. This specific information is unique to that project but is not all of the possible combinations of available products. When the plans are handed to the homeowner or builder, the electronic detail is discarded.

How Does It Work Today?

The architect meets with the homeowner of the property to design and draw the project. He must take into consideration many restrictions - these restrictions range from city and local building codes to budgetary amounts the homeowner has allocated for the project. The first question asked by the architect to the homeowner is “what is your budget?” Most projects are in financial trouble from the minute the plans are drawn and handed to the homeowner. Collecting bids and or finding a builder to meet your budget can be difficult, primarily due to the lack of budgetary tools during the design phase.

Once the project is drawn the homeowner must have at least ten to fifteen sets of plans reproduced. These plans are handed to the builder to pass on to his sub contractors for estimating, not pricing, the project. There are roughly 125 line items that make up the average dwelling. These line items range from material items such as cabinets, metal fireplaces, windows, plumbing, lumber, various labor trades, etc.

The current process requires each material supplier to manually ascertain the product specifications by reviewing the plans and making a list of the required products. An expert plan reader must do the takeoff. This is a time consuming and error prone process. The list is then entered into a desktop pricing program or is hand quoted from a price book or some other manual process in order to generate pricing information. If the bid turns into an order, the process is repeated to enter the order into a manufacturer’s ordering system. Automating this process will dramatically reduce the burden on suppliers and manufacturers. It will also make buying products from participating suppliers the easiest and least costly option available in the marketplace. Since the architect already generates this information electronically any further data entry is redundant. 1ST Pricing is your expert plan reader.

The Time of Costing and the Cost of Time

The average time it takes to estimate the cost of a single family dwelling by a builder is 3 weeks at a cost of $1,500.00. The average time it takes each sub contractor to estimate a set of plans is 4 to 5 hours at a cost of $300.00. The average time it takes a material supplier to estimate a set of plans is 2 hours at a cost of $40.00 to $60.00 dollars. The average homeowner has the project bid by 3 general contractors. The cost of time spent, in dollars, plus actual costs to estimate a set of plans by one builder, his sub contractors and material suppliers to produce a building budget are $5,000.00 to $7,000.00. It is the same process every time a builder receives a set of plans.

The architect and the homeowner have no idea of the building cost until the builders develop their estimates. Much of the time, it is significantly more than either had intended. Much of the uncertainty of the building cost could be eliminated, from the beginning, if the symbols used by the architect were “smart objects” that could capture the architectural information electronically and talk to a central pricing database. Sixty to seventy percent of the budget for building would be available, in real time, as the architect is designing giving him precise feedback on the cost of the project. Once this information is captured electronically, it can be passed effortlessly, accurately, and privately within the industry as easily as email.

What Do We Have To Do?

We must optimize our current building process. 1ST Pricing is a pricing and a collaboration system that allows homebuilders and builders to significantly reduce the number of days spent managing every home they build. Homebuilders could build 15% to 35% more homes by using 1ST Pricing and could keep their superintendents on the jobsite, building homes, instead of in the construction office doing paperwork and chasing down sub contractors and suppliers. This means better quality homes and fewer warranty callbacks. Most importantly, homeowners are empowered by accurate pricing information from which they can make informed decisions and not be at the mercy of greedy or unscrupulous contractors.

The symbols that 1ST Pricing uses are “brand generic” and are developed according to industry standards. They contain minimum and maximum ranges, so that there are fewer errors when ordered or when architect unknowingly designs with non-standard items. Non-standard products that must be custom made create cost overruns. All information should be handled electronically as often as possible. Accurate electronically captured schedules must be built on all levels.

When designs are completed in CAD powered by 1ST Pricing, a push of a button transmits information to the 1ST Pricing server via the Internet and returns the price of the specific products almost instantaneously. Pricing and availability are regionally specific defined by zip code. Global change functionality allows multiple quotes with various options, model types, etc. to help the end user hit the desired budget range. If the quote becomes an order, the data is processed through a configuration module and forwarded to the appropriate channels for ordering via the Internet. Of course, no data entry is required at the plant level – if the manufacturer is capable, the order can be directed to the shop floor. This tool would allow the manufacturer to complete the “last mile” of the data path to customers.

1ST Pricing allows builders, distributors and manufacturers to eliminate paperwork and the entry, coding and selection errors that go with it, by receiving purchase orders electronically. 1ST Pricing also empowers homeowners to make more informed decisions. Organizations utilizing the 1ST Pricing technology can monitor every construction project assigned to them, with real time pricing updates.

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