For future giant telescopes, control of construction and operation costs will be the key factor in their success. The best way to accomplish this cost control, while maximizing the performance of the telescope, will be through design-to-cost methods that use value engineering techniques to develop the most cost-effective design in terms of performance per dollar. This will require quantifiable measures of performance and cost, including: (1) a way of quantifying science value with scientific merit functions; (2) a way of predicting telescope performance in the presence of real-world disturbances by means of integrated modeling; and (3) a way of predicting the cost of multiple design configurations.
Design-to-cost methods should be applied as early as possible in the project, since the majority of the life-cycle costs for the observatory will be locked in by choices made during the conceptual design phase. However, there is a dilemma: how can costs be accurately estimated for systems that have not yet been designed? This paper discusses cost estimating methods and describes their application to estimating the cost of ELTs, showing that the best method to use during the conceptual design phase is parametric cost estimating. Examples of parametric estimating techniques are described, based on experience gained from instrument development programs at NOAO.
We then describe efforts underway to collect historical cost information and develop cost estimating relationships in preparation for the conceptual design phase of the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope.