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Behind the Scenes: Calculating Construction Costs With RSMeans Data

When building professionals are selecting building materials and calculating construction costs, many turn to third-party testing such as the RSMeans estimating handbook and online tools —especially as they relate to installation time savings and validating manufacturers’ claims. The group studied LP® SmartSide® Trim & Siding installation specifically, and we sat down with them to ask how RSMeans data works and what takes place behind the scenes of their time-labor studies. 

RSMeans has been the leader in construction cost data for nearly 80 years. Builders, architects, contractors, cost engineers and project managers use RSMeans data to project and forecast new residential and commercial building construction and renovation projections.  

What does RS Means stand for?

“Robert Snow Means was a civil engineer who kept copious notes about construction costs in leather-bound notebooks made at his kitchen table,” John Gomes, Manager, Professional Services at RSMeans said. “In the early 1940s, his peers were so impressed with his tracking material, labor and equipment costs, he began selling the homemade cost books. Today, RSMeans is synonymous with detailed and accurate costs. Our construction based database contains over 92,000-line items, and our cost engineering team spends over 22,000 research hours a year validating the costs.”

How to estimate building costs with RSMeans data

RSMeans makes it easy to search for and find the unit, assembly and square foot costs needed to compile construction cost estimates. Whether professionals are predicting future construction project costs, creating square-foot estimates or budgeting and estimating renovation projects, many of the online software models allow professionals to plug in key construction information and receive a complete budget on building costs within a few minutes. 

How do you calculate construction costs?

When LP® SmartSide® ExpertFinish® Lap Siding was launched, we were certain professionals would save time. Because the product is prefinished, it eliminates the painting phase and helps reduce the need for seam caulking, joint molds or pan flashing at butt joints. To help prove our claims, we turned to independent third-party time-labor testers for an unbiased opinion. 

“We offer time-motion study services where the objectives of these studies are to validate the efficiencies of installation methods,” Gomes said. “We recently conducted a study where we expanded the differences between LP SmartSide ExpertFinish Lap Siding and fiber cement counterparts. Data was collected on trim products as well.”

For the motion-study testing, the study house was a typical two-story residential house that was prepped with house wrap and ready to receive trim and siding.

Gomes reported methodologies used are very precise. 

“We make sure all things are equal,” he said. “Same installation area, same crew, same daily schedules. The crew took lunch breaks at the same time and wrapped up at the same time. We take care that every product is installed according to manufacturing installation methods.”  

What did RSMeans data reveal in the time-motion study?

Overall, LP SmartSide ExpertFinish Trim & Lap siding installed 36% faster than fiber cement. LP ExpertFinish Trim installed 53% faster than fiber cement trim, while the installation for the LP ExpertFinish lap products clocked in 30% faster than fiber cement. 

The crew found lighter weights and longer lengths of the LP SmartSide ExpertFinish siding helped make installation faster. And they considered LP SmartSide products more durable and less prone to breakage. 

Who are the people who do building construction costs with RSMeans data?

“Manufacturers and builders trust us to be impartial,” Gomes said. “Builders want trusted products, and motion studies create transparency in order to reinforce trust with current and potential customers.”

According to Gomes, “The cost engineering team has years of experience in the construction industry. Many have over 30 years of experience and come to RSMeans as general contractors, subcontractors, project estimators. They hold designations and certifications and continue to attend seminars and conferences to continuously improve their industry knowledge. We have so much industry knowledge on our team.” 

For more information on LP SmartSide ExpertFinish Trim & Siding, take a look at the buyers’ guide and discover additional accessories such as J-Blocks, Mini-Splits and more. 

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