Estimating the cost of a project takes more than just experience. In-depth construction cost data can give the industry the tools needed to predict how much a project will cost.

RSMeans data from Gordian, a company that collects construction data, held a seminar about construction cost trends in 2018, and how the data is configured.

“We’re investing very heavily in modern and cloud-enable tech, which allows us to collect more data and to be more efficient,” says Noam Reininger, chief data officer at Gordian.

According to Bob Mewis, director of engineering at RSMeans, material, labor equipment and productivity all factor into the company’s creation of a unit price line item, or the cost of construction-related materials and services.

Reasons for material cost change include availability, location and time of year.

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, can also have an impact on pricing.

“[Hurricane] Katrina taught us several lessons about the impact of material prices and wage rates paid. It takes time for impacts to really show, it could be six months or more before we really see some impact. I would expect to see some impact from last year’s major hurricanes in the next couple of months, but the extent and what materials or trades, that’s hard to predict,” says Mewis.

Natural disasters could affect construction labor costs as well. According to Geni Medeiros, manager of cost research at RSMeans, there could be a higher open shop labor shortage, leading to more overtime and higher labor costs. Journeymen are under contract through their respective unions, and will not be affect as much.

As far as changes in construction cost by location, Richmond, Va., saw the highest change in construction costs year-over-year from the 2017 to 2018 data collection periods. West Palm Beach, Fla., saw the lowest change.

RSMeans’ database contains 88,667 unit cost line items. This year, 1,236 cost lines were added, and 87 were removed.

From 2017 to 2018, 71 percent of cost lines had a price change. Of those cost lines, 66 changed between -5 and 5 percent. Twenty-nine percent of cost lines had a price change of more than 5 percent.

Wood, doors and windows and fire suppression are all showing larger cost increases. However, the price of exterior doors is the main factor driving the doors and windows price increase.