Estimating with TrussFramer

In the world of construction, having an idea of material totals prior to actual construction is a valuable asset.  During the design process for roof and floor trusses the need often arises to also provide a roof sheathing estimate, or perhaps a shingle takeoff with flashings and hip materials, or perhaps a floor decking estimate.  Also, during the creation of wall panels, the need may arise to provide a drywall takeoff, or perhaps an exterior trim takeoff.  This new Estimating feature in TrussFramer allows component manufactures to provide this additional service with little effort, and has the ability to provide accurate ancillary material takeoffs.  Imagine being able to estimate the number of sheets of drywall for a project, or the squares of shingles and associated roof flashings with a few simple clicks.  This new TrussFramer feature makes job estimating a very simple process.

In the following screen shots and descriptions, you will discover the ease with which ancillary construction materials can be accumulated and reported, along with the efficiency and accuracy involved in this effortless process.

        Creating the Formulas

The entire process begins in the new Formula Builder.  This powerful tool allows the user to create and organize formulas that will be applied to the modeled objects in the job during the estimating process.  The Formula Builder is accessed at the Library location seen below:
The screenshot below is The Formula Builder dialog:

The dialog provides a series of pre-defined Object Properties for each of the Categories listed in the left-most column (NOTE: the example above displays the Object Properties for Wood Wall).  These properties allow the user to quickly create formulas based the object property itself.  In the example above, the user has created a formula named ‘1/2” Drywall for walls’.  The Object Property used to create this formula is “Interior area” and the user has applied a waste factor of “1.1” to it, as seen in the right-most column. 

The description/definition of the Wood Wall Object Property “Interior area” is provided in the description field, located just below the Properties/Operators/Key Pad tabs (typical for any selected object property).  The information in this section describes the property in detail to assist with the creation of the formulas.  (NOTE: please notice the ‘hover over’ info in the Existing Formulas column.  This results when the user moves the mouse over the Existing Formula name.  The string is pulled from the ‘Help’ field, and the ‘hover over’ info is provided throughout the estimating process.)

Accessing and Organizing the Formulas

As the formulas are created, they are stored in Libraries (and will be accessed by Fusion in the future).  At this location, users are able to assemble and organize the formulas into ‘Formula Sets’.  The beauty of Formula Sets is the user is able to include formulas in user-specified sets, and apply the sets, or groups of formulas, to specific levels in the job, or the entire job! 

In the example below, the user has created a ‘set’ of formulas named ‘Wall Set’, and the formulas created in the Formula Builder for the Wall Category are displayed to the right.  The formulas desired to be included in the ‘set’ are selected at this location.  (NOTE: the hover over information for the ‘1/2” Drywall for walls’ formula from Formula Builder is displayed on the right.  Here, the system not only displays the Help text but also the actual formula.  This info assists the user in knowing more about the formula and its contents without having to revisit Formula Builder for that information). 

Scheming and Applying the Formulas

After sets have been created, they can be schemed at Building Styles (first screenshot below) and applied to levels via Templates; or added to the job directly at Job Properties (second screenshot below) if desired.  This allows complete flexibility to apply sets of formulas to individual levels, to the entire job, at any time during job creation! 

As with any reliable software, some setup is required, as evidenced above.  To accurately and quickly estimate the job, users typically create their desired formulas prior to job creation, add them to sets and apply them to the job; however, adding formulas to ‘Formula Sets’ is not a required step.  As you’ll see later in the document, estimates can be created from formulas at any time within the Estimating dialog. 

It All Comes Together in the Estimating Dialog!

The Estimating dialog is displayed below.  This is where estimates are created from the formulas.  When this dialog is triggered, the system creates an estimate for each formula applied to the job, applying the formula to the objects in the selection set (or level).  (NOTE: an example might be that the system applies a Wood Wall formula to the wood walls in the selection set (level) to create the estimate, and so on.)   Users can also create individual estimates at this dialog without applying Formula Sets (discussed later). 

Let’s take a closer look at the Estimating Dialog below (Fig.4).  The screenshot below was taken after Formula Sets were applied to the job, and the Estimating Dialog triggered.  The ‘Name’ column defaults to the name of the formula in combination with the Help text.  This is easily editable with a double-click in the cell.  (NOTE: obviously, estimates created by the user directly in this dialog allow the user to name the estimate at the time of creation). 

The next column displays the selection set for the estimate.  This defaults to the level or levels that the formula has been applied to or schemed for.  The system allows the user to manually edit the selection set by accessing the dropdown list in that cell and editing the level (see Fig.1) 

Fig. 1

The selection set may also be edited by selecting/de-selecting objects in plan view.  (see Fig.2 and Fig.3.)  The system is designed to only display objects in plan view for the current estimate.  In Fig.2, a ceiling plane estimate is being created, and the system responds by displaying only ceiling planes to the user.  Likewise, in Fig.3, a roof plane estimate is being created, and the system responds by displaying only roof planes for selection/de-selection.  To change the selection set using plan view, highlight an estimate, the system updates plan view to display only the objects associated to the estimate, select or de-select any of the visible objects, and the system updates the selection set.   This is consistent with Plan Checker functionality, and utilizes plan view interaction between user and system. 
Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4 

The next column displays the formula for the estimate, and defaults to the formula applied via the Formula Set.  The formula can be changed by accessing the dropdown at this cell and selecting a different formula (see Fig.5 below). 
Fig. 5

The final column represents the calculated total, the result of the formula being applied to the objects in the selection set. 

Manually Creating an Estimate

The process described above details the automatic creation of estimates based on applying formulas to specific levels using Formula Sets, and triggering the Estimating dialog.  Users can also create estimates on-the-fly while working in the dialog by simply dropping the list of Categories, and creating an estimate.  The user applies a name to the estimate, creates a selection set, selects a formula for the estimate, and the system calculates a total…it’s that simple!  See the screenshots below:
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4

Step 5


TrussFramer has functionality planned that will allow users to access the formula builder from within the dialog, as well as the ability to apply Formula Sets while working in the dialog. 

The checkbox on the left of each estimate allows the user to report only on those estimates that are checked.  Reports are generated directly from the Estimating dialog, and are currently sent to Note Pad.  We plan to integrate this with the new Report Engine. 

As you can see, we’ve provided the ultimate in flexibility into the estimating functionality and plan on adding even more in the future.  This feature will be available in version 7.2.2, commercialized sometime after the first of the year!

 This page last modified on 10/6/2009