January and February are often an excellent time to put a project out to bid. The world (at least the great northeast) is coming out of the annual deep-freeze and contractors are looking to line up their work for the coming year. The cold weather makes it easier for contractors to concentrate on developing prices, and contacting subcontractors and suppliers, rather than during the warmer months when they are focused on construction.
At Teitsch-Kent-Fay Architects, P.C. we typically try to have our bidding documents prepared and approved in the early spring. This allows the contractors to review them in February or March to submit their bids around April. This also allows a bit of time, while the weather is still too cold to work, to acquire permits, secure any insurance requirements, and begin the review of contractor’s material submission so orders can be placed. This schedule allows for everything to be set up and in place so that when the weather improves everyone can hit the ground running, and focus on the construction process in a timely and efficient way.
With the contract documents completed, a list of invited bidders is prepared for private projects. In the case of public work, the project is advertised to contractors to respond to and pick up a set of documents. These documents are reviewed, often starting with a pre-bid meeting/walk thru to make everyone familiar with the particulars, and the Contractors prepare their bids for submission.
The above process is based on the traditional bidding method, where contractors submit sealed bids, for the Owner to open and select a contractor from. This method has been employed for both public and private projects for many years. In the last few years we have done several projects under a new paradigm, Cooperative Bidding.
The Cooperative Bidding concept has been used for some time for the acquisition of materials, supplies, and commodities. The Office of General Services in New York State has overseen the “State Contract” for many years allowing public entities to purchase “pre-bid” items. In recent years, this concept has been further developed to include a variety of services, including construction services. While these contracts, often called “piggyback” agreements, require careful review by the client's legal council to make sure they are used correctly, they can offer a positive alternative to the conventional bidding process.
Teitsch-Kent-Fay Architects, P.C. has used this “piggyback” type cooperative bidding on several public school projects. One of the primary benefits to this type of project acquisition is that it allows the Owner’s team and Contractor to work together, negotiating and developing the project and tailoring that scope to fit within the available budget. Another benefit can be that the time traditionally devoted to bidding can be streamlined, allowing for a quicker transition from permit approval to when shovels are actually put in the ground.
Regardless of the bidding process selected, late winter / early spring is the ideal time to make the required decisions for contract acquisition. This is because when the weather is cooperative, construction can begin in an expeditious manner. This tends to make this time of year pretty busy and exciting for us here at the office.