Basic cost estimate

Discussion in 'Managing Projects and Business Issues' started by Elizabeth Bates, Nov 3, 2008.

  1. Elizabeth  Bates

    Elizabeth Bates Friend of the Community

    Can you give me a rough idea for the cost per foot for a monopole telecom tower assuming no special ground conditions and same for a guyed tower?

    Example: a 250' monopole used for telecom antennae, dishes, whips etc.

    And before you wonder what on earth I am doing in this website with this Cell Tower 101 question, let me explain that I am a municipal tax assessor and am trying to get a basic idea of the contruction costs for these types of towers. Cost is only one way we value these structures and I'd like to get some reasonable good information so that I am addressing their value properly. Thanks!
  2. Wireless Estimator

    Wireless Estimator Administrator Staff Member

    Hi Elizabeth,

    It is difficult to assess what the cost would be for a 250? monopole or a guyed tower at the same elevation. Here?s why. Although you said that there were no special ground conditions, all sites have unique compressive and uplift soil capabilities and foundation installation costs can vary 50% or more based upon soil conditions. And since foundations can sometimes total up to 40% of the installation price ? or more ? a site automatically has a potential variable of +/- 20%, too much of a difference to provide a fair tax assessment.

    A homeowner would surely contest his home being assessed at $500,000 when his next door neighbor?s identical home ? with the same tax considerations ? is only assessed at $420,000.

    If we had misunderstood your ?special ground conditions? to mean enhanced electrical grounding, that too can add considerable dollars to the project depending upon the tower owner?s specifications ? as much as 1-2% of the total cost. Granted, tax assessment is not a finite science and if you were only 2% off on a home or commercial building you would be far ahead of your peers, but there are many other variables in construction costs.

    In example, although seasoned estimators can provide a per-foot cost for the erection only, per foot costs for the structure?s steel is impossible based upon a minimum of three components. 1. Steel costs are as unpredictable as gasoline prices, more frequently heading north. 2. Freight provides a considerable impact upon the total cost. And most importantly, 3. Although monopoles and towers may appear to look the same from a curbside view, even to many in the industry, the product cost could see as high as a 50% difference for structures of the same height.

    This is primarily based upon whether the owner is building it for one carrier or multiple tenants. If the location is in a sought after area, they?ll then design it to handle the increased capacity loading.

    If the site is in an area where there is little potential for another co-location, the owner will use the most minimal design and if a tenant later needs that site the structure will be retrofitted, oftentimes at the tenant?s expense to meet the additional capacity requirements.

    Also, based upon ambitious schedules, weather conditions and an active build-out, installation prices will fluctuate.

    One would surmise that large tower owners would be able to assist assessment officials with average pricing. They won?t and they can?t. They?re not about to share their proprietary information. They will identify the similar variance problems from site to site. And they don?t have this information.

    It?s interesting to note that these multi-million-dollar businesses provide an appearance of technological leadership in the ever-changing corridors of wireless design, but when you look at some of the methods they use for assessing construction costs, managing and awarding projects, the techniques are at the tin can and string level.

    It?s rewarding to see a tax assessor being aggressive in trying to levy fair assessments. Many other communities see the tower industry as a cash cow and try to milk it as much as they can. Unfortunately, this has caused many small business owners to abandon many unproductive sites or sell them at a loss.

    Your continued dialogue regarding problems you have encountered will certainly be welcome ? as will comments from other assessors who have encountered difficulty in trying to understand construction costs, income evaluations and other areas that they use to provide their assessments.

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