AI Generated Cost Estimates (GPT Plugins Use Case #1)

Welcome to this week’s edition of Architecture Insights.

Did you know AI can create cost estimates and quantity takeoffs right from ChatGPT?

AI News for Architects & Designers

  1. OpenAI comes out with the GPT store.

Summary: Architects and Designers are already creating custom GPTs such as Building Code and Safety Bots, and Image assistants. You can now discover thousands of others by visiting the new store. We go over how to access it below.

  1. Google Maps comes out with an AI update.

Summary: Higher quality 3D views have improved the use of Google Maps images or screen grabs as a starting point for site renderings.

ChatGPT Plug-In

How To Setup and Install a Plug-In

Currently, a ChatGPT Plus subscription is required to access this feature. However, if you frequently use AI, it is a wise investment to make.

Once you’re ready go to your settings → Beta features → Turn Plug-Ins ON.

Then go to the plug-in store.

The plug-in below is a great option.

There are a few other similar ones that work as well but this one works with both Excel and Google Sheets while some of the others only work with one or the other.

Hit Install and the rest is done, just make sure you are using version 4.0 and Plug-Ins are turned ON.

Example Use Case

For this demonstration, let's create a sample cost estimate of outdoor landscape features for a project.

Ask ChatGPT the same or similar prompt: Could you create an empty table with four columns - Item, Unit Price, Quantity, and Cost? I would also like to add 10 rows to the table with the following materials - Asphalt, Concrete, Unit Pavers, Culverts, Catchbasins, Waste Receptacles, Hydroseed, Grading, Retaining Walls, Disposal and Excavation.

Here is our table;

Note that most of these items are calculated at different units. i.e asphalt may come in at a square metre cost, catchbasins at a per/each cost, and disposal and excavation in cubic metres.

If you want to save time and avoid typing out every measurement style for each material, you can use a simple method to avoid it. Assign a number to each material and then specify which numbers correspond to which measurement style at the end of your prompt. This is especially helpful when dealing with more than 10 materials.

Add into your prompt the following: “For materials with 1 after them, put (sq.m) in the Unit Type column. For materials with 2 after them, put (each) in the Unit Type column. For materials with 3 after them, put (cube.m) in the Unit Type column.”

Follow the same method if you want to add information for pricing and quantities.

Your final prompt may look something like this:

Could you create an empty table with five columns - Item, Unit Type, Unit Price, Quantity, and Cost? I would also like to add 10 rows to the table with the following materials - (1) Asphalt, (1) Concrete, (1) Unit Pavers, (2) Culverts, (2) Catchbasins, (2) Waste Receptacles, (1) Hydroseed, (2) Grading, (2) Retaining Walls, (3) Disposal and Excavation. For materials with 1 after them, put (sq.m) in the Unit Type column. For materials with 2 after them, put (each) in the Unit Type column. For materials with 3 after them, put (cube.m) in the Unit Type column.

Once you have your table generated and everything looks ready just type another prompt asking to export the following table into a csv. file and you will have a downloadable file ready.

Something to Consider

With the ability to "train" LLMs, offices can now explore using AI to help with cost scenarios much more detailed than the one above.

This time around if the AI is trained and familiar with past pricing of materials, based on its ability to review and summarize data, then the generated tables could come with the last missing piece to the sheet, the cost of each material.

Training an LLM remains fairly complex for the average user with limited knowledge of coding, but it is certainly possible with a safe and secure software system.

Resources & Tools

How to access and use the GPT store.

Simply go to Explore GPTs at the top left hand side of your screen and you should see the following page once there.

From here you can search all of the existing GPTs.

You can also create your own custom GPT by hitting the + Create button on the right.

ChatGPT will guide you through a series of questions to help understand your desired bot functionality and how it should respond to your prompts.

AI Image of the week

Thank you for reading this week’s issue, check past issues here. Share this newsletter with colleagues, friends, or anyone interested in the combined world of architecture and artificial intelligence.

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Until next Friday,

A.I.

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