Why You Should Involve An Architect During The Bidding & Builder Selection Phase
Should you involve your architect during the bidding and builder selection process?
Once the architect is done with the construction drawings, the next step is to give the drawings to builders so they can provide estimates. Once a builder is chosen, you’ll need to ask them for a contract. You may choose to go this process alone, or you may choose to involve the architect to help you through this.
From my experience, I would confidently say that most all of my clients who’ve asked for my involvement definitely saw the value in it. An architect can be involved by doing a few things during this phase.
· Create a “Bid Form” to standardize bids from builders (aids in comparing & evaluating their bids on an even basis)
· Review of Bid Forms
· Provide guidance on builder selection based on price, quality, & service
· Review builder’s contract & offer advice to ensure fairness to you
Invitation to Bid Form:
While you could simply give each builder a set of construction drawings & ask for an estimate, there are flaws to this approach. The problem with only providing construction drawings to bid from is that each builder will provide a written estimate in their own format, and each format will be very different as each builder has their own way of doing things. If there are materials that haven’t been selected yet (which we call “allowances” such as tile, wood flooring, cabinets, counters, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc.), left to their own devices builders will do 1 of 2 things. They’ll either leave these costs out of their estimate entirely, or they’ll each be guessing at what you might be spending for these… with some of the guesses being wildly different. Both of these scenarios will result in estimates that will be very hard to compare to another, making your selection that much more difficult.
The best way to create a level playing field among the builders is to have the architect provide a “Bid Form” which will help you evaluate the bids & then pick the builder who you feel will give you the most value. This can save you a significant amount of money by ensuring that you’re getting the best price relative to other comparable bids.
The “Invitation to Bid” form is used to supplement the construction drawings once they’re ready to be released to builders for estimating. The Bid Form is essentially a standardized form given to each builder which they’ll complete & return. They’ll enter values into each line item for labor & materials, while also disclosing their profit & overhead. The Bid Form also takes all the guesswork away from the builders for all of the “allowances,” as the architect will set those values so each builder is not guessing at what those materials may cost. These numbers for the allowances are just place holders, but should be close to what you’ll ultimately be spending for each item.
Bid Form Review:
Once the Bid Forms are returned, a spreadsheet can be created to easily compare all bids. If any big discrepancies are seen among certain line items, the builders can be asked to clarify what exactly was included, or if something was placed elsewhere on the Bid Form or possibly overlooked altogether. Two builders might have been providing very different HVAC systems in terms of quality and price point, and you could now ask each to bid on the same exact system.
As an example, out of 4 bids you may narrow it down to 2 builders and then go back to those 2 builders and ask them to clarify certain questions we may have about their bids. They may then revise and resubmit their bid, at which point you’re assured that both builders are bidding on the exact same scope of work.
Selecting a builder is no easy task, but the criteria should be price, quality, service, & your comfort level with them. While choosing the lowest bid is often attractive for obvious reasons, you need to make sure that you’re not compromising on quality & service. If the architect knows the builders, he may be able to offer his opinion on who might provide better quality or service & a better overall experience, especially if the price is comparable between 2 builders. Even if he doesn’t know the builders, he may still be a better evaluator of builders & help you make an informed decision.
Review of Builder’s Contract:
Once a builder is chosen, he would then be asked to submit a contract for your review & approval. Each builder has their own way of doing things, so one builder’s contract could be very different from another. Some contracts are very simple and one-sided, being in the builder’s favor & not being fair to you by not including many of the things that should be addressed in a construction contract. The preferred contract is one of the many versions of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) contracts, sometimes with a rider attached to cover additional issues. The contracts and riders are typically done by the builder’s lawyer, but it’s highly recommended that you either have the architect or a lawyer versed in construction law review the contract to make sure it’s fair to you. Simply put, “you don’t know what you don’t know” about construction contracts (such as retainage & lien releases), but the architect does and is there to protect you.
Involving the architect during the bidding & builder selection phase doesn’t cost a lot & is money well spent considering that selecting the right builder is critical to the success of the project. If you haven’t been through this process before, it’s highly advisable to have the architect by your side to help you make the right decisions.
DeMotte Architects | Fairfield County CT Architect | Westchester County NY Architect
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