I have never met a client that did not have a budget. So the goal of delivering a building for an estimated cost can be challenging. I have found that competitive bidding between general contractors to be less satisfactory for our clients than other delivery systems. In competitive bidding (often used for public buildings), the architect must coordinate a complicated set of construction drawings with a book of material and installation specifications. General contractors then submit private bids based on those documents, from which an apparent low bidder is identified. A contract is then drawn up between the owner and contractor for construction. Any deviation from the bid documents may result in requests for information from the contractor, field orders from the architect, and change orders from the contractor which add to the bottom line. This method often puts the contractor and architect in adversarial roles. This is not fun for anyone, and more importantly, it does not necessarily deliver a better or cheaper building.
Our experience has shown that the negotiated bid is a better alternative. The general contractor is selected by the client, usually before we finish our drawings. He presents the client with an open spread sheet of all costs. If a line item (carpeting for example) seems too high, alternative materials or suppliers can be negotiated. Sometimes this review requires the architect to revise drawings to lower square feet or simplify a construction detail. In this way, everyone is working together as a team to solve problems before and during construction.
TJC has published a new article on our website, Competitive Bidding vs. Negotiation, which provides a detailed examination of project delivery options. For a comprehensive analysis you can view our copy of The Handbook on Project Delivery by AIA California Council at our office or purchase a copy at California AIA’s website.