This phase is complete when the documents are submitted to the local building department, and a building permit is issued. Since much more information has continued to accumulate on the drawings throughout this phase, an updated estimate is not a bad idea.
The bidding process invites a number of contractors (I usually invite four) to competitively bid the job. The owners are then presented with a number of proposals from which they may choose. The advantage of this process is its built-in competitive checks and balances, that is, the owners will get a good sense of the reasonable range of prices for which the project could be built. Excessively low or high bids can also be identified. The disadvantage of this process is that it does not adapt well to times in which the building economy is super-heated. In these times there is so much work available that many contractors are disinclined to compete, favoring instead a negotiated construction agreement.
Under the negotiated agreement the owner ideally settles on a contractor early in the process (as early as schematic design, if possible) and so gains a valuable resource to inform the design process. In this way the owners may also be able to reserve a reliable spot in the contractor’s construction schedule. It is often thought that the downside of the negotiated contract is that competitive cost information is not available; in actuality, the general contractor will still be soliciting multiple bids from all subcontractors and suppliers. The remaining part of the equation concerns the general contractor’s labor, profit, and overhead numbers. Profit and overhead are easily compared to industry standards, but labor is difficult to verify.
For this reason I recommend that this type of construction contract relationship be entered into only with contractors who are known either to the owners though previous work, or to me through previous projects. The negotiated agreement usually takes the form of a fixed price contract, but other forms are also used, ‘time and materials’, and ‘cost of the work plus a fee’ are other common forms.
This phase concludes when a satisfactory contract for construction is signed.
I usually arrange for a weekly site meeting where the owners and contractors can share their observations and raise any important questions. This serves as a way to promote ongoing involvement and communication amongst all parties. In addition to the weekly meetings many small issues are resolved by phone or digital means.
Although many owners see this phase of the basic architectural services to be optional or expendable, it is my experience that these services are among the most important. As in any triangular relationship, communication and proactive problem solving are of paramount importance. Ongoing involvement by the architect during construction serves this end. I feel so strongly about this point that I will decline to participate in projects where this portion of the architect’s basic services is deleted.
• Site Assessment Services
• Design Consultation
• Lighting Design Consultation
• Referrals to Related Professionals:
–Structural engineering consultants
–Energy compliance consultants
–Material and product suppliers