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Information request to Bidders

  • 1.  Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-03-2021 09:43 AM
    I am helping a client obtain bids for a small residential addition project. Approximate project cost is around $200k.

    Given the current "hot" climate, it has been a somewhat challenging effort. A couple of bidders have sat on the drawings for weeks before informing us that they aren't able to do so.

    In our Bid Instructions, we had requested and were expecting at least a broad level of component breakdown of the proposed overall project cost. One of the bidders came back at the bid due date with a single value figure for the project cost with some qualifications for exclusions. When requested again to do so, they had responded that "until there is a firm commitment, the line item information remains their property." In past projects, I have not encountered resistance to provide more information about proposed costs. To me, the transparency is essential in understanding and clarifying what is included before one is to commit.

    Is it unreasonable to expect more information than a single overall project cost number albeit that the project is not a big one relatively? This contractor for one came recommended and one was hoping in earnest to be able to work with him...

    I am interested in hearing about any of your experiences, thoughts and advice. Thank you in advance for your input.

    Joana Tan Jamo
    JTJ Architects LLC

  • 2.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-04-2021 05:26 PM
    I do a lot of small/medium scale residential remodels and I always get preliminary estimates from my
    trusted contractors before going to bid.  They always do breakdowns for me, just as they do for
    actual bids.  So I have never encountered that reluctance to give a breakdown.  I wouldn't work with
    a contractor that kept those numbers private.  What I am encountering, is that contractors are forced
    to use for "allowances" for line items because pricing has gone through the roof since Covid, so by the time
    a contract is let, their prices can't be trusted and they really get burned if they have fixed numbers for a lot
    of the trades.  I do really detailed drawings to avoid "allowances" in the bids, but I totally understand the
    need for them now.  I would at least ask these contractors to do a "cost of the work plus a fee" kind of
    arrangement and reveal their "estimate" numbers so the owners can know what the big ticket items are
    at least in case they want to make adjustments.

    Hope that is of some help.


    Gina Moffitt AIA
    Kiyohara Moffitt
    Los Angeles CA

  • 3.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-06-2021 02:40 PM
    I thank you all for your invaluable insights, suggestions and for sharing your experiences.

    Much appreciate this AIA community for sharing of insights and opinions, especially as a small projects practitioner, this is invaluable. Thank you once again.

  • 4.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-04-2021 05:32 PM
    I work mainly in this lower end of the market, with projects ranging from $100-$500K, and in this small-town, small-contractor market few of the local builders have the resources to commit many hours of time to produce detailed estimates on speculation.  I long ago gave up expecting it, but it's nice when occasionally we can get a real breakdown. Most often, if we tried to insist on detailed bids up front, we'd be lucky to get one contractor.  In my practice it's better to show the project to several builders, then let the project owners interview the builders and get a sense of their comfort level in working with the builder.  Usually the builders will share their hourly labor rates and give a broad sense of what the project is likely to cost, without committing to a firm bid price.  Sad but true.

    Bruce Ward AIA
    Bruce Ward Architect
    Hamilton NY

  • 5.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-04-2021 05:42 PM
    I don't know what part of the country you are in, but here in the Denver area it is difficult to get residential contractors to participate in a competitive bidding process since everyone is so busy here.  It costs contractors a lot of time and money to put together a detailed bid.  Some contractors won't even prepare a detailed cost breakdown without being paid a fee for the service.  Of course it's nice to have around three bids to compare, but it has been years since I've been able to get three contractors to bid against one another on a small job such as you mentioned. Unfortunately, sometimes a client will solicit cost proposals from more than one contractor at a time without telling them they are talking to more than one, but I think that's unethical and it tends to creates bad feelings.  I usually recommend to my clients that they interview contractors, check their references, look at some of their completed projects, and then select the one they want to work with and negotiate a contract with them.

    Robert Larsen AIA
    Robert R. Larsen, A.I.A.
    Denver CO

  • 6.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-05-2021 05:38 PM
    My experience has been similar to Robert Larsen's and Bruce Ward's. If only I could have a climate like Gina Moffitt's; wouldn't that be nice.

    I am not sure a competitive bid is the best delivery mechanism for residential projects anyway. Much like I want to be selected as an architect (interviewed, qualifications, relationship, chemistry), I have found the most success in selecting a residential contractor. Develop a shortlist, interview, work on a budget/bid.

    It doesn't mean one cannot try, but unless one has multi-million dollar projects with high-end contractors who build said projects, I don't see that happening in my world. The breakout comes from a single contractor.

    I'd stick with the Golden Rule method.

    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA

  • 7.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-04-2021 05:45 PM
    On projects of this size, is your delivery model going to be  GC lump-sum or CM?  with the variable material cost conditions of today, GC's seem to be reluctant to break things down (as are their subs) too far.  GC's are also reluctant to reveal their true sub-contractor costs, as owners/architects might want to try to "Chinese-menu" trades to achieve a lower final cost.  I have found, with bottom-line bids being within 5%, sub-bids were all over, GC to GC, just to disguise these real, project, costs. At this level ($200K) I believe that a lump-sum, GC contract is most appropriate, and lump-sum comparisons are enough to get your client what they need, providing your drawings and spec's are tight and the contract you are using relates to the drawings and spec's.

    Peter Hart AIA
    Peter C. Hart & Associates, Ltd.
    Stamford CT

  • 8.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-04-2021 07:49 PM
    Call your contractor and tell him you are not soliciting other bidders and want him to build the addition. Sit down with him and work out the details.
    Will McCullam, AIA

    William McCullam AIA
    Newbury OH

  • 9.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-04-2021 10:22 PM
    If your client is not in too much of a hurry, perhaps best wait six months for the "hot climate" to cool down. Material and labor shortages are skewing most construction markets now.  No location is given for this project. 

    Edward R. Acker | Emeritus AIA LEED AP 

    3330 Boulder Circle, Unit 101

    Broomfield, CO 80023

  • 10.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-05-2021 07:41 PM
    Owners are trying to figure out how big of a loan to take out.

    Contractors are trying to squeeze in more projects, and taking time to get a really solid bid is hard to do.  Plus, their subcontractors are likely even less able to come up with a complete bid.

    But most on the construction side of things have an idea about what to ask for to cover their costs and make some profit, on a $/SF basis, based on "similar" jobs.

    "It shouldn't be too hard" to come up with an understanding of the general range of those overall $/SF costs, excluding unusual sitework, very special finishes, etc.  Ask the prospective contractors "how are costs running this year", at least.

    Psychology tip, from a college "professional practice" lecturer years ago:  If you are stating a price range, tell them the high number first.  "Projects like this have been costing $250 to $175 a square foot in this area" will be remembered as "Architect said about $250/SF".  When it comes in at $225/SF, they will be happier than if they were thinking $175/SF.

    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA

  • 11.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-06-2021 05:42 PM
    We certainly prefer to work with a contractor that is pre-selected prior to issuing for final pricing and permit. Often we will introduce our clients to several contractors after schematic design and ask them to choose the one they feel the most comfortable working with. Sometimes we ask several contractors to provide a ballpark cost based on our schematic design drawings as well. After a contractor is selected he/she becomes part of the team helping us to meet the client's budget. Sometimes however, the contractor does ask for a fee and/or a deposit and contract agreement to perform a detailed cost analysis for value engineering purposes during final pricing. We understand - it takes a lot of time and effort to do a complete cost breakdown. This is a definite value to the client.

    F. John Barbour FAIA
    Shelter Architecture, LLC
    Minneapolis MN

  • 12.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-05-2021 09:35 AM

    It's definitely frustrating to not get a bid in the format you explicitly asked for. I have had similar experiences but have never received just a single lump sum bid without a breakdown. There are other ways to vet contractors such as speaking with former clients, visiting past jobs, checking municipal records for number of jobs, permits, etc. I regularly do those things. I also weigh how quickly the contractor responds and if he/she is is regularly on time or late with submission of a bid or phone calls or site visits.

    I hear that contractors are short staffed and are facing a glut of bid requests, which results in the situation you describe. It is therefore a "seller's" (GC's) market and you are very limited in what you can get from most GCs.

    Try working with who you think is the best fit to arrive at a budget, schedule and (adjusted) scope (if need be) to move the project along in a way that best responds to the parameters set by the client.

    Daniel Alter, AIA

  • 13.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-07-2021 07:49 AM
    Welcome to 1977!

    John Baudry
    404 556-5693

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 14.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-05-2021 10:49 AM
    IN general many home builders or remodelers don’t care for Architects.

    It is very typical for them to not break down their numbers…

    especially during these times.


  • 15.  RE: Information request to Bidders

    Posted 08-08-2021 12:06 PM
    In todays market, getting a hard dollar bid will be extremely difficult. Too many market conditions (pricing) out of the contractor's control.

    Your best bet for this size of project is to confirm the contractor's abilities, make sure the contractor and the client are a good fit, and proceed with the project. Maybe use a T&M not to exceed approach.

    John Feick AIA
    Feick Design Group, Inc.
    Sandusky OH