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Guide to Commercial Construction Cost Databases

Throughout all phases of a construction project, it is important that project owners have a good sense of what the total cost will be. In most cases, cost is the most important factor in determining whether a project is even viable. That’s why having the most detailed and accurate cost estimate possible is vital at every stage of the pre-construction process, and reliable cost data is required to produce precise estimates.  

Unit Costs

RSMeans Data is a comprehensive database of more than 92,000 unit line item costs spanning all types of construction work tasks to aid in the creation of detailed cost estimates. Unit cost line items include the cost of materials, labor and equipment required to complete a unit of work. Unit cost also factors in productivity rate, or how much work a laborer can complete in an hour. 

Included within material costs are fasteners for a normal installation. In addition to actual installation, these figures include time spent during a normal weekday on tasks, such as material receiving and handling, mobilization at the site, site movement, breaks and cleanup. Equipment costs include rental and operating costs for equipment under normal use. The operating costs include parts and labor for routine servicing, such as the repair and replacement of pumps, filters and worn lines. Normal operating expenditures, such as fuel, lubricants, tires and electricity (where applicable), are also included. 

All RSMeans Data unit cost line items are organized in the same way, along the guidelines of the 50-Division MasterFormat® Construction Specification Institute, with line numbers being consistent across all datasets referring to the same item of work.  

RSMeans Data is available for various construction areas including general construction, facilities construction, maintenance and management, or trade specific such as electrical, mechanical and plumbing. Cost data is also organized based on type of construction, including new commercial and residential construction and commercial renovation type projects.  

Most datasets include assemblies, a collection of one or more unit cost lines grouped into functional elements of a building (e.g. window, roof, wall). More than 12,000 cost item assemblies are available throughout the RSMeans Data database and broken down by individual components and respective unit prices.


RSMeans Data Packages

The RSMeans Data Packages combine multiple unit cost datasets for a particular area of construction. Whether the focus is on facilities construction, maintenance and repair, exterior and interior commercial renovation or heavy civil infrastructure, packaged datasets offer a collection of unit costs in a comprehensive database to aid in estimating the cost of any project, no matter the size or scope.


Square Foot Cost Models

RSMeans Data can also be accessed at the per square foot level to aid in generating conceptual estimates, also known as preliminary or range of magnitude, in the early planning phase of a project to ensure alignment with budget expectations. With minimal factors such as size of project, location and building type, RSMeans Data square foot costs can be leveraged to prepare a conceptual estimate. With the ability to localize costs for more than 100 different building types for commercial and residential new construction or commercial renovation construction, designers and stakeholders are easily able to understand the potential total cost from the onset of a project.