A labor database contains units of labor for each task that is required for a particular project. If you are installing sheet metal than you need to know how long it takes to install the air duct based on its size or weight in addition to taking into consideration the working conditions of the project site. It takes more time to install a 60” x 36” duct than a 12” x 12” duct. But how much time does it really take to install either of these ducts? This is where a labor database comes into the picture, as the basis for which you will make adjustments to.
If the company you are working for doesn’t have their own labor database, then there are third-party labor databases available. With the onset of the digital age there are many companies offering their computerized estimating software that contains a labor database, estimating software companies such as Trimble, QuoteSoft, and FastDuct. These companies integrate the labor database of the industry leader in sheet metal standards, SMACNA (Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association).
The SMACNA labor database provides units of labor for the fabrication and installation of ductwork and accessories in addition to miscellaneous pieces of HVAC (Heating Ventilating & Air Conditioning) equipment. In addition, SMACNA provides education and advocates for various legislation on Capitol Hill. SMACNA labor data is the most widely used labor database for computerized estimating software programs.
RS Means which was purchased by the Gordian Group also has a labor database but you won’t find it used in any of the top HVAC estimating software programs. They publish various books and have an online version of their database which contains over 77, 622 line item units. The RS Means database contains material and labor, not just labor like the SMACNA database. They offer several levels of access to their database, including unit price cost, cost for assemblies, square foot model cost, Union and Open Shop data sets, Life cycle cost estimating in addition to their eBooks and published cost data books.
Maintaining material cost data for construction elements is a daunting task unless you have a supplier that provides you with the information on a timely basis. Prices change over time do to economic conditions such as inflation and the overall competition amongst suppliers. To make sure you are bidding projects with the latest prices in your database you will need to have a system in place to update the prices. This can either be done manually by calling your supplier every several months to get the latest price or submitting a bill of material for each project your bidding on.
If your company is using an estimating software program this becomes a lot easier, but still requires you to periodically check with your suppliers for price changes or changes to their discount multiplier. A discount multiplier informs you how much you can deduct from their published retail pricing.
You will most likely be using a local fabricator for your rectangular and round duct and fittings. There are sheet metal fabrication companies that sell to the local contractors. There are some HVAC sheet metal contractors that have their own shop fabrication equipment and thereby fabricate their own ductwork. Their fabrication shop can vary on the type and amount of shop fabrication equipment they own, which will dictate the type of ductwork they can make. Shop fabrication equipment is expensive and so is the labor to keep the shop running. Having your own fabrication shop allows you to control the quality and timely delivery of ductwork and fittings.
If you are taking off HVAC piping or Plumbing this is automated by several companies that sell material price databases that contain tens of thousands of prices on pipe, valves and fittings. These prices are automatically downloaded from the internet into your estimating software and the only thing you need to do is maintain your discount multiplier for the different manufactures.
For those companies large enough to have a purchasing department or an individual responsible for making purchase, the process of getting updated pricing can be handled through them. They will be in constant contact with your local suppliers and will notify you when prices change.