The smallest phase of the architect’s scope is all about distributing information and helping find a great contractor. The bidding phase is set up for the more traditional “design, bid, build” approach to construction and design, in which the main purpose is to provide consistent information to all contractors bidding on the project.
The Traditional Approach
Contractors bidding on the project are faced with a big task. Finding out how much money and how long it will take to build the project can be a very difficult answer to produce. The drawings and specifications are loaded with information, some of which are hard to find.
The general contractor distributes the final drawings and specifications to their desired sub-contractors and suppliers to get pricing on specific components of the project. The architects are then responsible for providing clarity to the pre-design intent by answering RFIs (request for information) and submittals from the general contractor. Submittals are snippets of product information that suppliers and sub-contractors send to the general contractor to verify product specification consistency with the design intent. Sometimes sub-contractors request substitutions to comparable products (because of cost or familiarity). If the substitution is acceptable and approved by the design team, the architect then relays that substitution to the other bidding contractors to provide consistent bid information. The issue with this approach to bidding is the entire build team is biding on the project based upon the final plans and specifications. Without a cost consultant during the design phase, the bids often times come back as a surprise. This could then lead to design revisions and additional costs.
Our firm always recommends getting a general contractor involved after the schematic design phase but well before construction drawings and specifications are finalized. Although this is not your standard “design, bid, build” approach it does help the owner and the design team get a better sense of project costs early on while the drawing board is still warm. This places the general contractor in a cost consultant role and can be used to help facilitate decisions related to cost and value engineering. This of course changes the bid process from bidding the general contractor to bidding the subs, suppliers, and products.
Stay tuned for Phase 5: Construction Administration where architects are used during construction.