James Porter recently earned promotion to HB’s Chief Estimator role. His background in commercial construction includes field labor, project management, and estimating. He took the time to discuss his interests—inside and outside of work—and what advice he would give to someone considering an estimating role.
What do you appreciate about estimating?
“With every new project we’re presented with a unique puzzle. We get to solve it using our knowledge, the input of the subcontractor community, and an estimating system. To me, there’s a lot of appeal in that. There’s a craft to it that people don’t even realize.”
This concept of craftsmanship seems to apply to your passion outside of work. Is there a connection between the two?
“I spend a lot of my free time doing woodworking, including custom furniture. I would say there is. Planning, taking your time, and focusing on the details are definitely principles that apply to estimating. When you’ve put in the hours to make something great, it’s rewarding.”
What are you looking forward to in your new role?
“I think one of the worst mistakes someone in our field can make is to be overconfident. The moment you think you have it all figured out is the moment you’ve become obsolete. So while I’m stepping into a leadership role, I want to continue to learn and grow, and help the people I work with do the same.”
You mentioned the subcontractor community earlier. How do you work with them?
We collaborate with trade contractors every day, and every one of them brings something unique to the table. One thing I’ve learned is that while e-mail is great, it doesn’t beat picking up the phone and talking to people. There’s a level of coordination and trust in what we do. You can’t achieve it without answering the phone and being accountable.
What advice would you give to someone considering an estimating position or career?
“Gaining field construction experience is priceless. There’s no substitute for seeing and being a part of a project coming together. Even now, we continually visit jobsites to see if we’re thinking about price and schedule in a realistic way.”
What excites you about the future of your craft?
“We’re becoming increasingly capable of implementing BIM into our estimating and preconstruction services. If we’re contributing to design or leading a Design-Build project, we can aid customers with a highly accurate, cost-loaded model. We can even price an range of layout or material options at once. Along with BIM/VDC, I’m excited by the rise of CMAR and Design-Build as the delivery method of choice. They allow us to eliminate risk and set up win-win projects for every stakeholder.”