There is often a trade-off between preserving sparsity and numerical stability in sparse matrix factorizations. In applications like the direct solution of Equality Constrained Least Squares problem, the accurate detection of the rank of a large and sparse constraint matrix is a key issue. Column pivoting is not suitable for distributed memory machines because it forces the program into a lock-step mode, preventing any overlapping of computations. So factorization algorithms on such machines need to use a reliable, yet inexpensive incremental condition estimator to decide on which columns to be included. We describe an incremental condition estimator that can be used during a sparse QR factorization. We show that it is quite reliable and is well suited for use on parallel machines. We supply experimental results to support its effectiveness as well as suitability for parallel architectures.