Dollars to pounds: AFIT delivers cost estimating course across the pond

  • Published
  • By Brock Taylor
  • Air Force Institute of Technology

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The 48th Civil Engineer Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, hosted the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Civil Engineer School for an on-site offering of the Life Cycle Cost Estimating Course.

Course director Thomas Glardon led the two-week course, which took place Oct. 9-20 and was funded by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center. Instructor Brock Taylor led on-site staff assistance with the Air Force Parametric Assembly Cost Estimating System.

PACES is the required program to create cost estimates for facility sustainment, restoration and modernization projects over $1 million and all military construction projects. 

The Life Cycle Cost Estimating Course is designed for students to comprehend and consistently apply life-cycle cost-estimating principles, tools and standards to Air Force programs to more effectively plan, program, budget and execute its infrastructure requirements. The course enables the civil engineering workforce to generate, review, manage and/or finalize the programmed amounts and independent government estimates.

The course focuses on life-cycle cost analysis and the three Department of Defense cost-estimating methods. Graduates become authorized Air Force cost estimators. Students are challenged by having to use advanced mathematics and cross-disciplinary construction to pass it.

The course is typically delivered in an online, self-paced format. Due to high standards required to produce quality cost estimates for the Air Force, it tends to have a pass rate around 85 percent.

For this special on-site offering at RAF Lakenheath, Glardon restructured the online course into a two-week in-person format. Students from several installations in the United Kingdom attended, eliminating the need for staggered or off-hours instruction. 

They were able to seek individualized instruction and have in-depth discussions about course subjects. The format allowed Glardon to create specific examples to problems or scenarios that directly related to individual students, enabling them to better comprehend the complexity of cost estimating.

The on-site offering also increased the pass rate to 93 percent, Glardon said.

These types of in-person visits allow AFIT instructors to see how what they teach is used in the workforce and revise instructional methods or content to better serve civil engineers. They also provide targeted, non-attribution assistance to base needs by an expert who has insight into Air Force-wide tools, challenges and potential solutions.

In addition to the special WENG 400 offering, the Civil Engineer School was able to assist the 423nd Civil Engineer Squadron at RAF Alconbury and 48 CES and Installation and Mission Support Center at RAF Lakenheath, highlighting challenges using the PACES program and cost estimating in the United Kingdom. 

PACES uses cost data from DOD and RSMeans, a construction cost-estimating software program, to assist in generating Class 3 Parametric Cost Estimates required on Form 1391 when programming projects.

During the course, issues stemming from regional cost differences, historical preservation, conversion from dollars to British pounds and incorporating regional cost data into the PACES program were discussed. As a result, Taylor was able to create personalized solutions and directions on how to overcome these challenges. 

On the site visits, instructors also noted that individual PACES users do not have a community of practice or user forum for post-instruction support. As each installation typically builds similar projects or faces similar requirements, users are not able to share models, user-created assemblies or functional space areas. 

This problem is compounded as PACES users may excel at different aspects of the program and the disconnect does not allow them to learn from each other. It also leads to instances where users may be creating the same models, assemblies and functional space areas for different projects at different installations – when they could be sharing them, saving time and effort required in programing projects. 

Using the technology available, the Civil Engineer School created a PACES Microsoft Teams page that allows users to share files, as well as chat or message one another to ask questions or discuss problems they may be having. Taylor monitors the page to share updated policy or content directly with PACES users.

The Teams page also includes the PACES user guide, updated cost information and short how-to instructions for various applications. The Civil Engineer School will be developing and posting short instructional videos for common challenges, routine PACES functions and advanced PACES cost-estimating skills. 

PACES users who have completed WTSS-200 Estimating with PACES can request to join the PACES Teams page by emailing

For more information about the Life Cycle Cost Estimating Course, visit

AFIT’s Civil Engineer School can provide on-site options for many courses, as well as consultations for various programs, by request. For more information, send an email to or visit