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Field Report

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by Bruce Adibyazdi

The process of selecting a general contractor is a critical step along the path of a successful construction project. The contractor is one leg of a "three legged stool" that includes the owner, contractor and architect.

These three entities will be working together, on a daily basis, to make sure the construction can run as smoothly as possible.

There will always be coordination conflicts questions about details, labor and material delivery problems, etc. but through good, consistent communication, each leg of the stool keeps the project moving forward.

There are two basic methods for selecting a contractor. The project can be bid (sometimes referred to as "hard-bid") or negotiated.

Within the negotiation category, the contractor can be included as a design-build partner, act as a construction manager or be a general contractor with a negotiated fee.

Soliciting bids for a project works well when the scope of the work to be performed is well-defined, well-documented (in the construction drawings) and the schedule is reasonable.

Construction documents can be distributed to an invited list of contractors, or in the case of public work, it is advertised in the newspaper. Contractors should be given plenty of time to review and price the project.

This should take anywhere from three to six weeks, depending on the size of the project.

There are recommendations developed by a joint committee of American Institute of Architects Springfield Chapter and Springfield Contractors Association. A few points of interest are:

?Research the bid date to make sure there are no other projects of similar size bidding on the same day.

?Make bid times after 5 p.m. to give the contractor a chance to review and finalize bids prior to bid time.

?Don't use liquidated damages for late completion arbitrarily.

?Provide enough sets of drawings for them to supply all of their major subcontractors and suppliers.

The advantages of a bid contract is that, generally speaking, there are fewer unknown factors during construction, the owner gets the advantage of a fully, competitively bid project, and the administration of the payments to the contractor

are easier because they are made based on a percentage of the work completed, as opposed to a cost-plus type arrangement.

Disadvantages to a bid project are that the low bidder may have missed something on the drawings, which could cause some headaches during construction, and there is always some quibbling between the architect and contractor regarding product specifications or the intentions of the drawings.

Negotiated contracts are more complicated and involve numerous variables, such as overhead and general conditions costs, fee structure, insurance rates, etc. The advantage of this kind of contract can be realized when the project is not yet fully defined and construction needs to get started.

It basically allows for the owner and contractor to agree on general costs and fee structures, with the contractor submitting back-up documentation for each cost to the project.

Disadvantages are that the total cost of the project is not fully defined until construction has actually started, and that open communication and forward thinking is crucial during the final development of the documents since construction may have already begun.

In short, be conscious of the method you use to select a contractor.

Make sure your project matches the type of contractor you use, and just like selecting an accountant, attorney or architect, you should interview several contractors to find the one or ones that seem to fit your project.

You should always use standard AIA contract documents, and always have your legal counsel review any contract you sign.

(Bruce Adibyazdi is a past president of AIA Springfield and a partner with Butler, Rosenbury & Partners.)

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Make sure your project matches the type of contractor you use, and you should interview several contractors to find the one that seems to fit your project.[[In-content Ad]]

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