Estimate Requests

Facilities Management will prepare cost estimates for departments. These are not bids, but conceptual estimates of the cost of completed jobs, which can help determine if your department has the funds to proceed with the work.

Typically, we do not charge for preparing an estimate. However, if bid specifications are needed (usually only for major renovations), the requesting department must cover the cost.

Jump to additional information about estimates:

How to request an estimate

Please do not send a purchase requisition to request an estimate.

Request an estimate online through NU Portal Self-Service. (If you don’t have access to Self-Service, please contact your department manager.)

Include the following information:

  • A description and location of the work
  • Required completion date if any
  • The name and phone number of your department's contact person.

Except for very complex projects, or where the scope of work not clearly defined, Facilities Management’s policy is to return a written estimate to the requesting department within 10 working days after the scope of the work is finalized. 

On very complex projects (or projects that require the services of multiple shops or contractors), a project engineer or manager will be assigned to prepare the estimate. He or she will contact your department to discuss the project, and a written estimate will be sent to you.

Predicted costs and standards

A number of factors can significantly increase the cost of a project. These include the standards to which Facilities Management must comply:

  • Work must comply with all state and federal regulations.
  • Commercial-grade building materials (intended to last 100 years) must be used.
  • Contractors must be established and reputable, with adequate liability and workmen’s compensation insurance coverage.
  • A contingency amount is added to cover the cost of unforseen circumstances. Contingency funds may not be used for changes in a project's scope, and any unused contingency funds will be returned to the sponsoring department.

Do our costs seem excessive? If the estimate is too high for your department's budget, we can discuss with you the scope of proposed work to see if there are any less expensive alternatives available.

Facilities Management is responsible for constructing, renovating, remodeling and maintaining all University facilities; this ensures that we achieve high standards of safety, quality, accountability and maintainability.

Types of Estimates

Estimates are approximate calculations of proposed renovation costs. Facilities Management can provide three types of estimates, as follows:

Budgetary Allowance

A budgetary allowance is expressed as a cost range, such as $5,000-$7,500 or $25,000-$40,000, and is based on historical data for similar projects on campus (such as offices, classrooms, wet and dry labs). Budgetary allowances provide an idea of the size and scope of a project, for purposes of budget planning and funding requests. Budgetary allowances are not fully explored or investigated and are based on order of magnitude assumptions.

Conceptual Cost Opinion

A conceptual cost opinion may be expressed either as a flat sum, or as a cost range, depending on the amount of information provided by the requesting department or division. A preliminary scope of work is typically provided by the requestor, but cost opinions also are comparative, based on historical data for previous campus projects. Cost opinions are not guaranteed, and may vary up to 25% from actual costs.

Detailed Estimate

A detailed estimate is expressed as a flat sum, and also includes a breakdown or project costs. Detailed estimates are based on conceptual planning diagrams or a description of the proposed scope of work, developed by Facilities Management in consultation with the requesting department or division. The requestor must approve the diagrams and scope of work before the project can be estimated, and any subsequent changes will affect the estimate. The quoted cost is not guaranteed, and detailed estimates may vary up to 10% from actual costs. Most detailed estimates will involve fees for architect or engineer support.

For capital projects, which may include new construction or major renovation, Northwestern requires binding cost estimates based on construction documents.

Construction Bid

A construction bid can only be prepared from detailed plans, which are typically developed by architectural or engineering firms and may include drawings and construction specifications. Construction bids are prepared at the end of the design phases of renovation or construction projects, and typically include the contractor’s assertion that construction costs are guaranteed.

Requisitioning or changing a project

Requisition a project:

  • If you decide to proceed with the work, please reply to the Customer Service e-mail regarding your estimate. You will need to supply a NU Financials chartstring.
  • Once this is received, the estimate will be turned into a Work Order and you will receive a Work Order number for tracking.

Schedule your request as soon as possible:

  • Please route your request through Facilities Management with as much lead time as possible to allow for necessary analysis and review to assure code compliance.
  • If you are planning to have major work done during the summer months (our busiest time of the year), we urge you to contact us no later than January.

Change a project's scope:

  • If your department makes any changes to the scope of work being done, an authorized person within your department will be asked to sign off on a Work Change Order.

See the Changes to University Facilities Policy webpage for more information.