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.  The new Estimating feature in TrussFramer allows component manufactures to provide this additional service with little effort, with the ability to also 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 material 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 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 may be accessed at the Library location seen below (as well as within the Estimating dialog, discussed at the end of the article).
The screenshot below is The Formula Builder dialog: 
NOTE: the lower right section of this dialog has since been reconfigured as shown below, providing the user with the ability to assign specific units to each formula, and the ability to include rounding precision with each formula: 

The Formula Builder 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 on the object property itself.  In the example above, the user has created a formula named ‘1/2” Drywall for walls’ by dragging the ‘Interior area’ property from Object Properties section into the Formula Editor Window and applying a waste factor of ‘1.1’ to it.  When the formula is saved, the system adds it to the Existing Formulas section (second column from the left in the main dialog).  (NOTE: notice the ‘hover over’ info in the Existing Formulas column.  The string is pulled from the ‘Help’ field, is displayed when the cursor hovers over the formula name, and is provided in many of the estimating dialogs.)

The description/definition for any selected Object Property is provided in the description field, located just below the Properties/Operators/Key Pad tabs.  The information in this section describes the property in detail to assist with the creation of the formulas. 

Accessing and Organizing the Formulas

As the formulas are created, they are stored in Libraries (and will be accessed by SAPPHIRETM  in the future).  Within Libraries, users are able to assemble and organize the formulas into ‘Formula Sets’.  Formula Sets are groups of formulas that can be applied directly to levels or to an entire job, and either schemed via Building Styles or applied directly within the Estimating dialog. 

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

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!  And Formula Sets can now be applied within the Estimating dialog (discussed at the end of the article).


As with any specialized, integrated 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 (or import them from another user), 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, formulas can be built at any time, and estimates can be created at any time, all from within the Estimating dialog. 

It All Comes Together in the Estimating Dialog!

The Estimating dialog is discussed below and detailed in the following four screenshots.  This is where estimates are created from the formulas.  When this dialog is opened, the system automatically generates an estimate for every formula applied to the job.  This is accomplished by applying the formula to the modeled objects’ geometric properties referenced in the selection set for each estimate.  Users can also create individual estimates at this dialog independent of Formula Sets. 

Let’s take a closer look at all the functionality available within the Estimating Dialog (Fig.3). 

The ‘Name’ column defaults to the name of the formula and includes the Help text.  This is easily editable with a double-click in the cell.    

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 edit the selection set by accessing the dropdown list in that cell and editing/changing levels (see Fig.1).
                        Fig 1.
The selection set may also be edited by selecting/de-selecting objects in plan view.  (see Fig.2)   When an estimate is highlighted/enabled in the dialog, the system responds by displaying in plan view objects associated to the estimate (the visibility for all objects associated to the current estimate is enabled; the visibility for all other objects is disabled).  In Fig.2, a roof plane estimate is being created, and the system responds by displaying only roof planes.  This allows for simple and precise selection of objects to add/delete from the estimate (consistent with Plan Checker functionality).  (Note: an example might be: 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 as well as the estimate calculation).
                               Fig 2.
                     Fig 3.
The third 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.4 below). 
                     Fig 4.

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!  Follow the 5 steps below:

     Step 1
     Step 2
      Step 3
    Step 4
    Step 5
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 in the future. 

Manually Applying Formula Sets within the Estimating Dialog

Users are now able to apply Formula Sets directly within the Estimating dialog.  This simplifies the application of these groups of formulas if for some reason they were not included with the Building Style.  Formula Sets can be applied to the entire job or individual levels (consistent with Building Style and Template creation), with the additional capability of applying an Empty Set.  An Empty Set contains all of the formulas within the applied set but comes into the Estimating dialog with an empty selection set.  This allows the user to immediately create a custom selection set at the time of the estimate creation.  See the dialog below of Formula Set location in the Estimating dialog:
We’ve also provided the ability to access the Formula Builder from within the Estimating dialog:

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 is available beginning in version 7.2.2.


 This page last modified on 1/20/2010