Top 5 Earthworks Estimation Software Tools for Construction Teams

As any civil engineer or contractor can attest, earthworks operations are one of the most complex and business-critical parts of infrastructure projects. Yet estimating earthworks — calculating the soil and rock volumes that must be moved to recontour a site — has traditionally been an analog process fraught with uncertainty. Today, however, modern estimating software gives contractors an information edge to control costs, minimize risk, and keep projects on track.

In this comprehensive guide, we evaluate five leading options for earthworks estimation software platforms based on key factors like features, accuracy, integrations, and more. Read on for profiles of each solution and expert recommendations so your business can choose the right fit.

Why Earthworks Software Matters

Before reviewing the top vendors, let‘s explore why accurate modeling and estimation of earth volumes is so invaluable for firms involved in grading, excavating, demolition, site development, road building, and similar activities.

  • Optimal planning and bidding – By understanding likely material volumes and terrain adjustments early, teams can assemble appropriate equipment, workforce sizes, schedules and budgets.

  • Cost control – Tight project estimation minimizes chances of budget overruns or excess rental equipment and materials.

  • Safety and compliance – Software can expose grade issues and geo-hazards so contractors take necessary precautions.

  • Data-centric decisions – With precise, real-time data on soil, fleet activity and progress, managers have more visibility to guide operational decisions.

Simply put, without reliable earthworks measurement, teams essentially "fly blind" into some of their biggest operational and financial commitments. Software aims to solve this issue.

Overview of Top Earthworks Estimation Solutions

The right software choice depends heavily on individual use cases and workloads. To simplify your buying decision, we researched over 25 options to showcase five category leaders that earn strong marks for accuracy, depth of capabilities, ease of use and overall value:

Software Best For Offers Pricing
MudShark General purpose, all construction types 3D visualization, clash detection $99+/month
Kubla Cubed Smaller firms and projects TIN prism algorithms, simple UI $295 one-time
Earthwork Pro Commercial site development Auto takeoffs from drawings $399+/license
InSite Large-scale earthmoving operations Drone and machine data integration Custom quote
AGTEK Earthwork Project controls and oversight Operational tracking, equipment utilization Custom quote

Next, let‘s explore what sets each solution apart.

MudShark

MudShark delivers robust generalized earthwork capabilities for nearly any type and size of construction effort.

Background

  • Developed by BrightBox Software, founded in 2009
  • Continually refined over 13 years of industry input

Main Capabilities

MudShark lets users import project drawings and visualize interactive 3D site models showing existing and proposed conditions. Smart digital takeoff tools then facilitate rapid quantification and data input for items like:

  • Building pads
  • Trenching
  • Ponds/pools
  • Basements
  • Footings
  • Retaining walls

Key features include:

  • Advanced clash detection to spot issues early
  • Automated excavation, structural backfill and spoil pile calculations
  • Detailed PDF reporting through Excel
  • Drone/survey data integration
  • Model comparison tools

Why Choose It?

General contractors, site developers and engineers praise MudShark for its combination of advanced estimation and superior 3D visualization, giving full insight on how earth will need to be moved.

Considerations

With robust capabilities comes added complexity. MudShark has a steeper learning curve than some competitors.

Pricing

MudShark starts at $99 per user per month. Volume discounts available.

Kubla Cubed

Kubla Cubed fills a niche for simpler earthwork and landscaping measurement, catering to small or mid-sized site development firms.

Background

Created by Florida-based Kubla, founded in 2004 to build easy-to-adopt construction software.

Main Capabilities

Kubla Cubed provides core earth measurement tools in a streamlined package. Users define a site‘s existing topography and proposed grading plan. The software‘s algorithms then calculate cut and fill volumes, while allowing users to tweak parameters. Additional features include:

  • TIN (triangulated irregular network) prism methodology for accuracy
  • Importing PDF, JPG, BMP and other file formats
  • Basic 3D visualization
  • Estimation summaries and area/volume reports

Why Choose It?

Kubla Cubed balances utility and simplicity. For basic earthwork needs without intensive modeling requirements, it provides strong value.

Considerations

The tool lacks more advanced features some large contractors desire like clash detection, drone integration, bid leveling and so forth.

Pricing

$295 per license, affordable for small businesses.

Earthwork Pro

Earthwork Pro handles earth takeoffs and material quantification for commercial and residential site planning and preparation.

Vendor History

Offered by PlanSwift, a construction-focused software company with 30+ years in the industry.

Main Capabilities

Earthwork Pro aims to automate estimation directly from digital building plans and drawings. Running inside PlanSwift‘s takeoff software, Earthwork Pro lets users simply import PDF, DWG or DXF files, thentrace areas for excavation, paving and other activities. The software handles all calculations automatically including:

  • Cut and fill amounts
  • Soil compaction predictions
  • Density conversions
  • More than 15 other material types

Additional features include:

  • Customizable onscreen digitizer interface
  • Linked dynamic 3D view of topography changes
  • Exporting quantities to Excel
  • Seamless workflows from takeoff through bid submission

Why Choose It?

For commercial site contractors already using PlanSwift for quantifying other trades like concrete, lumber or rebar, Earthwork Pro perfectly extends its capbilities for a complete material takeoff and bid without learning new interfaces.

Considerations

The tool lacks advanced functionality like clash detection, drone integration or project controls. But its specialized takeoff automation remains unparalled.

Pricing

$399 per Earthwork Pro license plus PlanSwift subscription fees.

InSite

InSite excels at large-scale earthworks measurement and modeling for major site development and heavy construction projects.

Vendor History

Offered by Trimble, a construction technology leader known for positioning systems, machine controls and design software.

Main Capabilities

InSite pulls various data sources into a centralized construction-oriented GIS database. Users can combine:

  • Survey data
  • Drone data
  • Satellite imagery
  • CAD drawings
  • Other sources

…then leverage InSite‘s advanced tools like:

  • Surface comparisons with contours and profiles
  • Automated cut/fill calculations
  • Dynamic cross sections
  • Project staging/phasing
  • Progress monitoring
  • Fleet tracking integration

Insight aggregates all findings into detailed reports on item costs, payload totals collected per hour, cycle times, daily production, etc.

Why Choose It?

InSite brings unsurpassed scaling and data consolidation capabilities for the largest civil projects like highway expansion or dam construction.

Considerations

The extensive toolset requires GIS and IT skills to implement. Overly complex for small contractors.

Pricing

InSite pricing is custom quoted based on needs.

AGTEK Earthwork

AGTEK Earthwork manages earthworks as part of complete construction administration, helpful for project controls roles.

Vendor History

AGTEK offers various cloud solutions for construction management alongside its Earthwork package.

Main Capabilities

While AGTEK delivers solid takeoff and material quantification, it uniquely ties these insights into additional functionalities like:

  • Tools for creating professional bids
  • Project scheduling
  • Cost tracking
  • Issues and safety management
  • Equipment utilization analytics
  • Automated entry from field/fleet systems
  • Overall documenting and reporting

In total, AGTEK handles planning, operations and oversight in one platform.

Why Choose It?

Project administrators who want to closely manage earthworks as part of overall construction administration can achieve full oversight with AGTEK.

Considerations

Requires staff specifically dedicated to learning and leveraging the software.

Pricing

Like Trimble InSite, AGTEK pricing depends on the deployment size and is custom quoted.

Key Software Buying Considerations

Beyond the standard features, accuracy, pricing and reputation factors that buyers weigh with any construction software selection, a few additional dynamics are worth considering when evaluating earthworks solutions specifically:

Existing workflows – How will new systems integrate with your current project management methods or preferred equipment? Prioritize solutions that will sync data rather than cause redundancies.

Ease of use – While quality algorithms and wide feature sets are attractive, also ensure options won‘t overwhelm your team. Workers must adopt software for it to deliver value.

Data openness – To maximize insights, favor systems with APIs and good integrations that allow combining earth measurement data with information from drones, machines, schedules and more.

Scalability – Even if current projects are small, consider long-term needs to support business growth or potential expansion into other construction verticals in coming years.

Proof sources – Look beyond vendor marketing claims to read third-party technology reviews and talk to actual customers about their experiences improving workflows and decisions after adopting different earthworks tools.

By carefully weighing these aspects instead of simply pursuing platforms with the highest advertised accuracy or feature count, firms put themselves in better positions for lasting value and return on investment.

Construction Industry Technology Trends

Beyond just earthworks software advancement, the complete construction ecosystem continues adopting new technologies at a rapid pace – offering contractors even more future opportunities to boost productivity, insights and competitive positioning.

Some top trends shaping the sector include:

Robotic equipment – Companies are piloting automated excavators, dozers, dump trucks and other heavy machines to cut labor expenses while achieving perfect grading accuracy.

Sensor networks – Affordable IoT devices now allow remotely monitoring job site conditions like ground moisture to alert managers of any changes impacting material volumes or equipment effectiveness.

Hybrid positioning – Blending lidar, GPS, robotic stations and machine data provides centimeter-level site mapping in near-real-time, ensuring earthworks stay precisely on spec.

AI-powered analytics – Machine learning models help contractors spot inefficiencies in cycles times, prevent equipment failures, optimize fleet movements and scheduling, predict change order risks and much more based on emerging patterns in operations data.

Construction technology spend is projected to triple within five years as owners see the clear advantages of modernizing their digital toolsets.

Key Benefits of Construction Estimation Software

Beyond the core workflow improvements and safety protections covered earlier, owners report additional advantages from implementing modern earthworks software:

Risk reduction – With terrain complexity and material volumes no longer unknown variables, firms shrink chances of budget overages, schedule delays, equipment logjams and similar issues that erode project profit margins.

Enhanced collaboration – When all stakeholders share unified planning models rather than interpreting disparate data sources independently, communications improve, speeding decisions and aligning site activities.

Future flexibility – Companies who master digital workflows and analysis with one specialty software solution often expand into additional categories, leveraging connected data for even greater visibility to overhead costs, crew productivity patterns, machine performance benchmarks and similar metrics that drive continuous optimization.

In essence, accurate earth quantity measurement serves as the core enabler that unlocks advanced construction intelligence capabilities as part of a digital transformation continuum.

Implementation Best Practices

While software itself provides the technical foundation, following proven change management and user adoption principles ultimately determines if companies realize lasting value from their chosen earthworks technology:

Get operator buy-in – Regular field crews will provide much of the input data to estimation tools. When they understand desired outcomes and help shape process changes, adoption proceeds more smoothly.

Phase deployments – Rather than forcing immediate software-dependent overhaul of all workflows simultaneously, introduce changes in targeted stages so users have time acclimate.

Highlight small wins – As project managers and company leaders note initial benefits from estimation upgrades – like fewer change orders or speedier payments – share stories internally to reinforce positives of transitioning systems for any hesitant to adjust old habits.

With some adjustments to ingrained ways of operating, construction businesses routinely extract immense advantages from earthworks innovations once fully implemented.

Conclusions and Recommendations

As competition across the development, infrastructure and property construction industry intensifies while owners also pursue environmentally sustainable practices, reliable earthworks estimation technology emerges as an indispensable asset.

Driven by complete project data rather than individual experience and best guesses alone, teams achieve much greater control and confidence for such a foundational site activity. They also gain visibility that simply didn‘t exist previously to continuously refine operations as market dynamics shift.

Based on their balance of wide ranging features for modeling and measurement paired with strong ease of use for typical contractor workflows, MudShark and Earthwork Pro earn recommendation as two complementary solutions fit for most earthmoving firms.

With additional investments in equipment telemetry, scheduling automation, bid optimization and even AI now integrating along the construction software stack, managers find they not only meet schedule and budget demands more consistently when projects commence. The richer insights uncovered in planning also equip them to sharpen strategy and capitalize on emerging sector opportunities.

By getting site preparation earthworks activities accurate and efficient early on with leading software picks matched to needs, contractors thus lay foundations to scale success across bigger portfolios.