The Role Of Earthwork Takeoffs In Construction Planning

In construction, “takeoff” is the process by which a contractor lists and measures the materials that will be needed to complete a project. It is performed in the first stage of the estimation process. The origin of the word “takeoff” is from the traditional process of hand counting, i.e. “taking off” the individual items from a construction blueprint and listing them for procurement. 

“Earthwork” is the process of moving solid surface materials in order to transform an area into a desired shape and/or elevation. It is also known as “earthwork excavation.” Soil brought onto a worksite is categorized as “Fill,” whereas soil removed is called “Cut.” 

Earthwork examination and takeoff is required for any substantial construction project, Affordable Site Model, Inc. including residential and commercial buildings, schools, and even roads. The initial estimate will often have to take into consideration non-construction aspects such as site geology, sedimentation and runoff, and factors related to ecology or environmental regulations. 

Much More than and Educated Guess 

Earthwork takeoff involves estimating the quantity of earth or soil that needs to be excavated or imported. During the earthwork takeoff process, survey data and site plans are entered into industry-specific software which can, based on grade and contour data, calculate the volumes of material to be removed or brought in. This output data is then used to create a complete cost estimate which incorporates time, labor, and equipment requirements. There is a plethora of earthwork takeoff software available on the market, with wide variations in capability, cost, and ability to integrate with existing construction management programs. 

Contemporary earthwork takeoff technology allows for a level of grading accuracy that was not possible even 20 years ago. By calculating the material and dirt quantities and entering the data into earthwork software, three-dimensional terrain models can be generated. These 3D models allow for comparison to the actual site topography, yielding extremely precise cut and fill estimates that are often accurate to within a cubic yard. 

Bring in the Machines

Gone are the days of workers performing earthwork operations by looking at survey stakes. With the incorporation of GPS machine control models, operators can see the job site model on a monitor. Earthmoving equipment such as excavators, backhoes and bulldozers can be outfitted with a system of sensors that can direct the machine’s movement based on the measurements from the 3D model. With the incorporation of GPS devices into machinery and its earthmoving components, human error can be eliminated entirely. In the most advanced configurations, equipment blades or buckets can be automatically adjusted to the required surface elevation. 

Ensuring a Successful Start for Construction Projects

Earthwork takeoff is a critical step in construction planning for projects that involve grading, excavation, site preparation, and earthmoving activities, such as building construction, road construction, and land development projects. Accurate earthwork takeoff helps ensure that the project stays on budget and schedule by providing reliable estimates of the resources needed to complete the earthwork portion of the project. The incorporation of the latest hardware and software advancements has allowed the speed and accuracy of the construction planning phase to reach new milestones.  

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