From Napkin Sketch to Reality Check: Why Cost Estimate Should Never Be Done on Cocktail Napkins

Estimated read time 2 min read

Let’s face it: Infrastructure projects are ambitious undertakings. They connect communities, shape skylines, and keep our world moving. But sometimes, the initial spark of an idea might translate differently from a back-of-the-napkin sketch to a realistic cost estimate.

cost estimate

We’ve all seen it happen: a grand vision scribbled on a crumpled napkin during a brainstorming session. While those initial ideas are crucial, relying solely on napkin math for cost estimation is a recipe for disappointment (and potentially a significant budget headache).

Here’s why a well-defined plan trumps a cocktail napkin any day:

  • Accuracy Matters: Underestimating costs can lead to project delays, funding shortfalls, and stakeholder trust issues. Nobody wants that kind of hangover (metaphorical, of course).
  • Hidden Costs Lurk in the Shadows: From environmental impact studies to permitting processes, there can be many unforeseen expenses that a napkin can’t capture.
  • Transparency is Key: Building stakeholder trust requires clear communication and realistic cost projections. Napkin sketches might spark excitement, but detailed estimates build confidence.

Now, I’m not saying napkin sketches are entirely useless! They can be a great starting point for brainstorming and generating ideas. But for those crucial cost estimates, let’s move on to more reliable tools (spreadsheets and cost-estimating software, anyone?).

So, ditch the napkin and embrace the power of planning! 

What are your thoughts? Have you ever witnessed the downfall of a “napkin sketch” project? Share your (hopefully less napkin-dependent) infrastructure cost estimation stories in the comments!

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