OLR Research Report

March 31, 2005




By: Kristin Sullivan, Research Analyst

You asked for information about Certified Professional Estimators (CPE) as referred to in HB 6913. You wanted to know (1) if professionals other than CPEs estimate construction costs, (2) what organizations accredit the CPE or other certifications, and (3) if CPEs generate savings.


In the construction industry, certified cost estimators develop the cost information that architects or contractors use to bid on a project and determine if it will be profitable. They compile and analyze data on all of the factors that influence costs including labor, equipment, materials, subcontracts, overhead, taxes, insurance, and markup, and then prepare an estimate for the entire project in accordance with generally accepted standards and practices. Most certified cost estimators are individuals with a degree in building construction, construction management, engineering, or architecture construction, and most have considerable construction experience.

Our research found two organizations that issue professional certifications for construction cost estimators: the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) and the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACE). Each organization maintains chapters around the country (AACE has an international presence as well) and issues its own certification(s). ASPE issues the CPE, and AACE issues the Certified Cost Consultant (CCC) and the Certified Cost Engineer (CCE) credentials. ASPE's certification program specializes in construction cost estimating while AACE's program in cost engineering is broad and encompasses multiple disciplines. Some CCCs and CCEs are construction cost estimators, but some are not.

There are countless independent cost estimators who perform the same or similar work as CPEs, CCCs, and CCEs but who are not professionally certified. In order to be considered for certification, ASPE and AACE require applicants to have between five and eight years of estimating experience. They must also pass at least one examination and write a field-specific technical paper.


The American Society of Professional Estimators is dedicated to construction estimating and is the sole issuer of the CPE credential. To be accepted into the ASPE program, applicants must have at least five years of estimating work experience. The certification process requires them to attend a mandatory workshop, write a lengthy technical paper, and pass two examinations. The first exam is four-hours and tests general knowledge. The second is an eight-hour discipline-specific exam that tests a candidate's area of expertise (e.g., general estimating, earthwork, concrete, roofing, or electrical). A candidate is designated a CPE upon successful completion of the program.

To be in good standing, ASPE requires CPEs to renew their certifications every three years. To do this, they must accrue 30 points in ASPE's Continuing Certification Program. CPEs earn points by documenting active participation in three areas: professional, educational, and creative contributions to construction estimating.

More information about CPEs is available on ASPE's web site at


The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International focuses on cost engineering, which it defines as:

“…the area of engineering practice where engineering judgment and experience are used in the application of scientific principles and techniques to problems of cost

estimating, cost control, business planning and management science, profitability analysis, project management, and planning and scheduling.”

AACE issues the CCC and the CCE, and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB) accredits both programs. (CESB is an external accreditation agency that sets accreditation standards for specialty engineering and related certification programs.) Some CCCs and CCEs specialize in cost estimating and work with architects and contractors to develop bids for projects, while others focus on budget planning. AACE considers the CCC and the CCE equal in all respects except that CCEs must hold a four-year degree from an accredited engineering program. CCCs hold a degree in an area related to cost engineering such as construction technology, project management, or business. Both designations require candidates to have at least eight years of relevant professional experience, though four years may be substituted by a four-year degree in a related discipline. Candidates must also pass an eight-hour exam and write a lengthy technical paper.

AACE requires CCCs and CCEs to recertify every 3 years and demonstrate that they have maintained continued expertise through work experience, continuing education, professional development, and active involvement in the profession.

More information about CCCs and CCEs is available on AACE's web site at


Our research did not reveal information about whether CPEs, or other cost estimators, generate savings by providing a cost analysis of architectural plans during a project's design phase. Because HB 6913 stipulates that the Department of Public Works (DPW) commissioner must require an architect who bids on a state construction project to first obtain a cost analysis by an ASPE-certified CPE, we have instead included data about DPW's FY 04 completed contracts. Table 1 lists aggregate original bid prices, final project prices, and change order statistics.

Table 1: FY 04 Contract Closeouts (Aggregate Data)

Number of Completed Contracts

Original Contract Value

Ending Contract Value

Change Order Value

Total Number of Change Orders






Source: DPW