By Evan Williams, Cambridge Companies
November 30, 2019
The process of conceptualizing, designing, and constructing a project is a complex and sometimes confusing series of interconnected tasks that rely on one another to result in a complete facility.
As an owner, you may or may not have familiarity with these processes, but better understanding them can help you know what to expect to avoid surprises, as well as having a better ability to plan ahead and positively impact the process. One critical phase of the project development is the final stages of the pre-construction process, which involves the bidding and permitting of the project. There are several important things to know as an owner which represent areas of critical performance (that you either have responsibility for, or can help with) that are important to ensuring that the project moves forward smoothly.
The type of construction project has a bearing on how the project will be structured. In a Design/Build project, the construction partner develops the bid packages. They will leverage their experience in construction and work in coordination with the design team assembling the bid packages, addressing any questions from the bidders, and presenting the bids tabulated for the owner to review. In Design/Bid/Build, the designer in charge prepares the bid package, and distributes it to general contractors.
As an owner, you need to know the critical difference between DB and DBB is that in a DB project, the general contractor is acting as a part of the project development team from day one, and in a DBB project, the general contractor is brought in after the design has been completed. This is important because in a DB project, the feedback from the general contractor has been a part of the project development to help ensure that it aligns with project budget, schedule and performance objectives, where in a DBB project delivery, this is the first time the team that that will actually be building the project will lay eyes on the plans. As the owner, you should expect significantly more questions during the bidding phase of the DBB project, as the general contractors try to better understand the project and familiarize themselves with your needs. In a DB project, they are already engaged, so questions should only be from subs and should be minimal.
If the project is a traditional DBB, the architect or responsible design professional will work with you to develop the bid package, including drawings, scope letters, instructions to bidders and other similar information. As the owner, you need to know that these items are critical to execution of the project. If the drawings are not complete or if the bid scopes do not completely cover the work required for the project, you will be on the hook for the cost(s) to add scope or engage other contractors to cover that scope gap.
When the prices come back from the general contractors, if their costs are significantly higher than the estimated costs from the design engineer, then the project drawings are typically re-worked to better align with the project budget. It is important to know that this can represent a time-consuming and often expensive process to get the project drawings to represent a final design that is buildable for the projected budget. In a DB project, they are already engaged, so questions should only be from subs and should be minimal.