Conceptual Estimating Methodologies


Larry is the Managing Partner of Conquest Consulting Group (CCG). Larry has been actively involved in many of CCG’s consulting areas, including providing cold eyes estimate reviews, estimate preparation, cost engineering organizational development, project controls, risk management, training, and claims/dispute resolution support.

Larry has over forty years of project estimating, management, consulting, and training experience in a variety of industries. He is a Certified Cost Professional, Certified Estimating Professional, and Decision and Risk Management Professional. Larry is also an Award of Merit recipient, Honorary Lifetime Member, and Fellow of AACE International. Larry is a past Vice-President of the Technical Board for AACE International and a frequent presenter, author and trainer on estimating and cost engineering topics.


A common issue often faced by estimators is how to prepare an estimate when there is little information or scope definition on which to base the estimate. This paper provides an overview of conceptual estimating methodologies, with particular application to preparing capital facility estimates for the process industries. However, the techniques can be used to support estimating for other sectors as well.

There are many order-of-magnitude or conceptual estimating methods, and each can be useful in a specific situation. Often, a single estimate may rely on using a combination of estimating techniques for different portions of the project. The conceptual estimating methods discussed in this presentation include:

Analogy Estimating
Capacity Factored Estimating
End-Product Units Estimating
Physical-Dimensions Estimating
LOCATION: (Virtual via Go To Meeting)

Nov 18th, 2021 @ 12:00 PM (PDT)
Link to recording of meeting:

TITLE: Parametric Quantification of Systemic Risks for Transportation and Infrastructure Projects

John K. Hollmann
Validation Estimating LLC

John K. Hollmann: John, lead author of AACE® International’s TCM Framework (2006) and author of “Project Risk Quantification” (2016), owns Validation Estimating, LLC (VE). He works with capital program managers and project leaders in a variety of industries from process to infrastructure to improve their cost engineering practices; i.e., estimating, project control, risk quantification, etc. Mr. Hollmann is a frequent speaker at international conferences, has written many papers, and often leads training workshops. He is an Honorary Life Member of AACE® and also recipient of their Award of Merit and Lifetime Achievement Awards. He was Director of Recommended Practices at AACE® and also led development of the AACE® Decision and Risk Management Professional certification. Prior to founding VE, Mr. Hollmann led metrics and research efforts at Independent Project Analysis, Inc. Prior to that he worked in estimating and controls for owner and contractor companies. His latest venture is cloud-based risk quantification software called ValidRisk ( based on his 2016 book; transportation and infrastructure are some of the industries covered.

Synopsis: AACE RPs address empirically-based, risk-driven parametric modeling to quantify systemic risks. These RPs reflect the process industry’s embrace of phase-gate project systems and research supporting the methods. While the cost overrun-prone transportation sector is catching up in applying phase-gate systems, it lags in benchmarking and research. Research in other industries shows that fundamental practice failures (i.e., systemic risks) cause cost growth. However, in transportation and infrastructure, too-narrow estimate accuracy range expectations are wired into owner phase-gate procedures. Estimators use largely subjective risk analysis methods that underestimate contingency because it meets these narrow expectations; so, the cost overrun cycle repeats. Those who benefit from low estimates (promoters/politicians) need not lie about costs; they can just announce a project early in scope definition in perfect confidence that estimators will fail to put a price on poor scope definition. This presentation (subtitle: “we have met the enemy and he is us”) reviews the cost overrun situation, the theories, the research and the various proposed and recommended methods. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the presenter is hopeful that empirically-valid risk quantification and contingency setting practices (e.g., such as ValidRisk) will become more widely used, putting an end to endemic cost overruns in the transportation industry.

LOCATION: (Virtual via Go To Meeting)

Oct 14th, 2021 @ 12:00 PM (PDT)

Link to recording of meeting:

TITLE: BIM for Cost Estimating and the Benefits of 4D/5D Modeling


Peter Starnes and Jay Mezher

Mott MacDonald

Peter Starnes: Peter has more than 25 years of experience in maritime civil engineering for infrastructure and transportation projects. He champions the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) processes and provides leadership and guidance for collaborative working. He acts as information manager on BIM projects to ISO:19650, and devises and monitors suitable workflows for BIM processes, tailored to the needs of the project. Peter manages a team of BIM coordinators and is responsible for ensuring consistent quality and on-time delivery of technical models.

Jay Mezher NCARB, AIA: Mr. Mezher is a licensed architect and an experienced digital design and delivery professional, he serves as a director on advanced BIM/VDC/Digital Delivery topics, specific to the Transportation, Energy and Water Sectors. Mr. Mezher currently serves as the North America South America (NASA) Regional Digital Delivery Leader. With more than 18 years at a major engineering firm, Mr. Mezher has participated in projects including the BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension, California High-Speed Rail, Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement, SR 520 Floating Bridge (Seattle), Amtrak B&P Tunnel (Baltimore), East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, LaGuardia International Airport, Eurasia Tunnel (Istanbul), and many others. Mr. Mezher has published articles and given presentations on BIM and virtual design and has taught at the Autodesk University conference and at George Mason University. He was honored for the innovative use of BIM and design software at the 2013 NCE International Tunneling Awards and has won awards for his work on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

Synopsis: Peter Starnes and Jay Mezher discuss how BIM models can be used to bring greater confidence and clarity to the constructability and cost estimating process during design and construction phases. What is required to develop accurate quantity take off from 3D models and what are the benefits and limitations of adding time and cost dimensions.

Use of BIM to Facilitate Cost Estimating on BART to Silicon Valley Extension


Peter Starnes – BIM Manager

Mott MacDonald

Mr. Starnes has more than 25 years of experience in maritime civil engineering for infrastructure and transportation projects. He champions the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) processes and provides leadership and guidance for collaborative working. He acts as information manager on BIM projects to ISO:19650, and devises and monitors suitable workflows for BIM processes, tailored to the needs of the project. Mr. Starnes manages a team of BIM coordinators and is responsible for ensuring consistent quality and on-time delivery of technical models.  Mr. Starnes is currently the BIM Manager responsible for overall BIM management for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Silicon Valley Extension Phase II (BSVII) in San José, CA.

LOCATION: (Virtual via Go To Meeting)


Jun 24th, 2021 @ 7:00 PM (PST)

 AACE Section Joint Technical Session: Decision & Risk Management 101 & a preview of the upcoming AACE International Project Risk Management Professional (PRMP) certification


The word “risk” means different things to different people. There is risk according to insurance industry underwriting; there is an entirely different meaning among the financial and investment community. There are also safety, threat, and vulnerability risks, in addition to enterprise risks, just to mention a few. Within AACE we have narrowed our focus to cover two primary categories of risk: the risks associated with business decisions when committing capital resources for asset investments, and the risks associated with the planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of specific projects. The focus of this presentation will be on the latter, which in the broader sense is referred to as project risk management.

Within the field of project risk management, it is important to understand that there are necessary distinctions among the responses of various project personnel to the risk management process. The roles and responsibilities, as well as the level of expertise, are different for project managers, project control personnel such as estimators and schedulers, and the risk manager. These individuals should understand what they need to know regarding their individual roles in a comprehensive risk management program

This presentation will introduce the primary tenets of risk management and discuss how the varying roles of project personnel work together to complement each other within the overall risk management process. It will take a look at the new AACE certification requirements for a

Project Risk Management Professional (PRMP), scheduled for introduction at the June 2021 AACE International Conference & Expo.


David Norfleet

Deputy Project Manager, Risk and Contracts Management


LOCATION: (Virtual)


April 08th, 2021 @ 3:30pm to 5:00 pm. PDT


TITLE: Work Condition during Pandemic (Mental Health/Productivity/etc.)

To All Members and Colleagues,

We are proud to add another panelist, Chris Mack – Manager, Construction Management Unit, Wastewater Treatment Division, King County Dept. of Natural Resources and Parks

Construction projects faced challenges and experienced periods of interruptions as result of Covid-19 pandemic. Health concerns (both mental and physical), new safety measures such as social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitization requirements impacted productivity and added potential cost and/or time. However, the extent of these impacts and contract implications have been different among projects.  On this Webinar, AACE Seattle Section invited panelists to discuss their views, risks and responses to executing projects during the pandemic.

Janice Zahn
Assistant Director Engineering, Port of Seattle
Matthew Preedy
Director of Construction Management, Sound Transit
Chris Mack
Manager, Construction Management Unit, Wastewater Treatment Division, King County Dept. of Natural Resources and Parks, WSDOT
Mark Sliger
CM Manager of Capital Projects, Seattle Dept of Transportation

LOCATION: (Virtual via Go To Meeting)

Jan. 14th, 2021 @ 11:45am PST
11:45am –Log-in to Webinar
12:00pm – Webinar Starts
12:45pm – Q&A
1:00pm – Webinar Ends

TITLE: Supporting Diverse Businesses at the Port of Seattle

What does it entails to have a company or agency be Diverse in doing Business?  Like Port of Seattle, the agency is admired on how they give importance on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
There are a lot of ways to support the goal of an agency to be diversified, it may include project contracting, hiring employees, giving services and selling goods. We at AACE Seattle have invited a great
person who has an important role in developing and managing diversity on projects.  Him being a catalyst who creates a diverse environment is out most important for a company to become successful.

Lawrence Coleman
Woman/Minority Business Ent Mgr.,
Diversity in Contracting

LOCATION: Go To Meeting

Dec. 17th, 2020 @ 11:45pm PST
11:45pm –Log-in to Webinar
12:00pm – Webinar Starts
12:45pm – Q&A
1:00pm – Webinar Ends

TITLE: Would you like to save 3% of your project value? Artificial Intelligence may hold the key


Learning from past mistakes on construction projects is hard – 98% of mega projects incur cost and time overruns according to McKinsey. The challenges are wide-reaching, from collating historical data, to interpreting results, and comparing results across your entire portfolio history.

Thankfully, new tools are being developed, using Artificial Intelligence techniques, to tackle these challenges and unlock massive savings opportunities for contractors, owners, and the community.

Join Toby Buchanan from nPlan to learn how major project teams are using these tools today on projects around the world.


Toby Buchanan

General Manager, nPlan


LOCATION: Go To Meeting


Nov. 12th, 2020 @ 11:45am PST

65-year-old Fairview Ave N wooden bridge replacement

SYNOPSIS: In Seattle, thousands of people travel on Fairview Ave N between South Lake Union and Eastlake every day without even realizing that they’re passing over Seattle’s last remaining major road on a wooden bridge. This bridge is held up by wooden posts built over 65 years ago; which are decaying and the concrete girders which stabilize the street on the eastern half of the bridge are cracked.

Rebuilding the Fairview Ave bridge is essential for public safety and will accommodate all people. In 2015, Seattle voters approved a levy to provide a $27 million investment in the Fairview Bridge replacement project. To replace the bridge, a section of Fairview Ave N is closed for 18 months. This project will construct sidewalks on both sides as well as a protected 12-foot, 2-way bike lane on the west side of the bridge. Just like today, there will be three lanes for cars and buses. Along with seismic improvements, we’re building 3 new lookout points along the west side of the bridge to provide viewing platforms looking out to Lake Union.

Join us as we share lessons learned, project risks and construction methods for the wooden bridge replacement.


Marilyn Yim, PE

Project Manager, Seattle Dept of Transportation

Is it Important to Scientifically Derive Project Contingency?

SYNOPSIS: Capital projects often than not experience significant cost over-runs and schedule delays, eroding project’ commercial values or profitability. One of the many researched reasons why major projects have such bad reputation is lacking robust and diligent project risk management practice, not only qualifying risks but to quantify the aggregated impacts of such foreseeable risks to the project.

Contingency is an essential element of project budget that is deemed to be spent by project team. In addition risk reserve funds are supplementary to cover the extraordinary and rare-event driven risks during project execution. How to derive the contingency and risk reserve funds in a scientific way is not a well-known to many project controls personnel. This presentation illustrates how a Monte Carlo simulation technique is used to simulate appropriate contingency at a given confidence level, and fits into cost estimate classification.


John G. Zhao

Principal Consultant at Riskcore Ltd.