by Steven Bench
One contractor recently received four different proposals, each with different materials and costs, for the same project. “How can this be?” he asked. I listened as he continued to grumble: “I do not understand, my instructions were very clear and the requirements for the project were well documented in the specifications and on the blue prints.”
The answer, upon closer inspection, is that while one proposal was for the specified product, the other three were for products, that were not specified but which could potentially satisfy many of the requirements established by the specification writer.
Upon further investigation it became obvious that my friend the contractor had failed to ask for proposals from more than one vender of the specified product line. This simple mistake left him with four proposals and the inability to make a comparison that made sense. Worse yet it left him with the inability to explain to his customer, the project owner, why he did not have more than one proposal for the specified product and/or why the research preformed by the specification writer was being ignored at best or, worse yet, duplicated.
In business, in general and in the construction business in particular, it is very likely that four different suppliers armed with the same project description and specifications will come up with four different recommendations. How? By making assumptions or taking liberties with the specifications.
While it is the job of the Architect and/or Engineer is to specify the products that are best suited for the project, it is the responsibility of the General Contractor to “police” the process by sorting out which proposals satisfy the exact requirements specified and which do not.
Another problem, my contractor friend pointed out, is: “If only one of the four proposals is complete and satisfies the specifications of the project how can anyone legitimately compare the proposals?” Unfortunately, the only viable answer may be to re-bid the project.
Ignoring the specifications of a project causes a great deal of confusion and extra work on the part of everyone involved, yet it is very prevalent in today’s construction business. Frequently the bidder(s) that failed to meet the requirements of the project is rewarded because his corner cutting proposal is lowest in terms of cost. The ultimate loser? Of course, is the owner of the project who, months or years, down the road discovers that he is not happy with the performance of that portion of his project.
Steven Bench is Managing Member of Heatizon Systems a leading manufacturer of radiant snow melting, roof snow and ice melting, floor warming, in-floor space heating and pipe heating/warming products located in Murray, Utah.