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Construction Estimating

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I am frequently called upon by clients to render an estimate of construction
cost. I don't mind this at all, except for the fact that I've never come up
with a satisfactory set of tools to do it.

I have tried various spreadsheet formats and even looked at software
available for purchase, but they are all geared more toward estimates FOR
construction cost, not OF construction cost.

The distinction is that I, as engineer, am not concerned about the grisly
details of what goes into an estimate. I want to work with gross effects.
The contractor wants to be able to apply minute controls; I simply want a
bottom line with a reasonable breakdown of how I got there without all the
ghastly detail.

I wonder if anyone here has come up with or developed a tool that you like
to use for making such estimates, and if you would care to share it with the
rest of us. For myself, I'm tired of flailing around trying to find
something that fits.

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