Unit-In-Place Costs vs. Unit Costs?

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    Marquis Nichol

    My understanding is that unit-in-place is something that has been already built (it's already in-place) and the cost of constructing a component has been examined. It is real-world examples that can be referenced for future projects.

    DCR Architect's Square Foot Costbook has a section on Unit-in-place that is the breakdown of component cost per built example projects. In this example it is broken down into very specific information per the CSI-MF divisions. Referencing unit-in-place costs can help to arrive at a unit cost through example projects. RS Means has similar data and ENR also takes from built examples.

    Unit cost is the process of establishing a unit for the purpose of budget early in the project. Square footage is a way of creating a unit cost but you would need to know what the cost of the square footage is before you can define the unit. A unit can also be something like a hotel room if you know the cost to construct that room in relationship to the entire hotel building. Historical data may help to arrive at a unit cost knowing that a hotel building costs x amount of dollars and there are y number of rooms, therefore each room cost z amount (unit cost). The complexity, level-of-finish, inflation, contractor availability, labor & material costs and other market factors can fluctuate the Unit Cost.

    Another thing to look at to establish the Unit Cost is the area multiplier. Ex: A building built in CO Springs isn't going to cost the same as a building built in LA. A $1,000,000 project built in CO Springs that would be replicated in LA would be 1,000,000 x 119/100 = 1,190,000. 119 is the area multiplier since cost of construction is higher in LA than CO Springs.

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    Artem Melikyan

    Thank you,

    I was curious about unit-in-place also.

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    Michael Ermann

    Marquis has it right. . .

    Unit cost vs unit-in-place cost

    Both these terms, unit cost and unit-in-place cost mean (just about) the same thing. The “unit cost” usually refers to construction cost estimating during design and bidding and “unit-in-place” is a term usually reserved for appraisers estimating the worth of a building someone is looking to purchase, refinance, insure, or account for in an audit. 

    The unit cost method estimates building budgets or construction costs by breaking down the project into smaller parts, estimating the cost of each of those parts, then multiplying that unit cost by the number of parts (units) in the project. In early design, the “units” may be square feet of finished space. One might make an estimate by taking a $600 per square foot guess (unit cost) and multiplying that by the 10,000 square feet in the project to reach a budget of $6,000,000. Later in the design process (PDD world) the estimate is based on more detailed information: the linear feet of pipe times the approximate installed cost per linear feet of pipe, plus the number of faucets times the average price of an installed faucet, plus. . . . and so forth for the rest of the project. These spreadsheets can swell in length.

    Unit-in-place cost method does the same thing--separate all the components of a building, estimate the cost of each unit (in cubic feet of concrete, square feet of paint, linear feet of foundation, number of screens in the multiplex, number of roofs on the campus, or number of exterior doors on the warehouse) and multiply by the number of units, then add everything up, to reach a value for a property appraisal.

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