Most people regard design/build as one of the great equalizers in the construction and contracting world. It helps prevent low-balling the contract, since most decisions are made on a comprehensive skills basis. But, as design/build has grown in popularity, so have ways around the process, and some end-users just are not comfortable giving one entity so much control.

Low-bid design/build (LBDB) is best suited for projects where such alternatives are not being sought, and design parameters are relatively set. Design/build projects often are designated as such because they leave some room for interpretation, especially with design, engineering and methodology. However, innovative methods translate into contract awards or even additional work.

Under LBDB, prequalified bidders submit their proposals the same way traditional low-bid and traditional design/build contracts are submitted. Usually, the owner has been very specific about his or her wants, needs and budgetary constraints. Bidders respond to the request for proposal (RFP), and once all bids have been opened, they are evaluated based on adherence to the initial RFP and then rated on price. The lowest qualified bidder then gets the award.

Typically, LBDB is most common on projects using public funds where contracts must be put out to bid.

Best value design/build

Best value design/build (BVDB) is similar to LBDB, but the proposals are compared through an adjusted score basis. This is done so that the pricing is not the primary factor in contractor selection, but rather a component of the overall selection process. An adjusted score considers both the pricing portion of the bid and the technical portion, which are converted into numerical figures to judge bidders.

As with other design/build contracts, those vying for the project need to have design/build experience. Past performance is taken into consideration. All factors are plugged into a scoring matrix that helps determine the contract recipient based on both price and performance. It is similar to traditional design/build contracting, with a nod thrown in to remind participants that pricing matters.

Best of both worlds

“Bridging” is a modified approach to design/build contracting. Many end-users are opting for a hybrid approach to their design/build procurement process.

Contractors need to be very aware of exactly what each bid is looking for, reading the bidding documents that cross their desks. While it may seem too time-consuming, it could mean the difference between landing a contract and having to shoot for the next one.

Ample information on the various bidding options for design/build can generally be obtained from the entity seeking the bids. Simply calling and asking questions always is a good place to start. In addition, organizations such as the Design Build Institute of America (www.dbia.org) are great clearinghouses of information.

Sometimes, the answers are best achieved by asking questions. Due diligence always is important in business, and when it comes to bidding and contracting, the stakes are even higher. Knowing how to respond to a bid
and understanding exactly what one is getting involved with can mean the difference between success and disappointment.  EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.