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Using RFPs for Construction
By Anonymous on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 03:18 pm:

I have very little experience in the use of RFP's. I contract out for construction and A-E projects. I have never used an RFP for construction.

I would like to know what would be included in an offerors technical proposal when using an RFP for construction. Along those same lines, would the Government provide a detailed design specification or a performance specification? It's hard for me to imagine some of the contractors that bid on my jobs submitting anything more than a bid.

By joel hoffman on Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 10:32 pm:Anon, these are pretty broad questions. Is this a "design-build" project or a "design-bid-build" (100% Government furnished design)? Do you work in the Corps of Engineers or in DOD? If the COE, you may E-mail me directly and identify the District, then I will try to advise you who you can talk to for more information. Happy Sails! joel

By Anonymous on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 03:22 pm:

Not from Corps or DOD. Was referring to traditional "design-bid-build". After reading GAO decision B-286266 (TLT Construction Corp.) and it made me wonder about the use of technical proposals for construction RFPs. I assumed the COE provided an in-house design to the K.O. who ultimately decided to go out with an RFP. I would guess that a design specification was used.

The more I thought of using RFPs for construction the more I wondered about what would be included in an Offeror's technical proposal. As mentioned earlier, this is unfamiliar territory for me.

I would think that a technical proposal submitted in response to a construction design specification would basically outline the contractor's plans for the construction. It would include a detailed summary of the contractor's labor mix, labor hours, materials, equipment, and other items required to perform the work. It may even go as far as discussing the contractors plan for implementing items under their safety plan, quality control plan, etc. Am I on the right track?

If a performance specification was used in the above referenced case this would almost make it a "design-build" project, would it not? In such a case the Offeror's technical proposal would essentially be providing a design as well as the construction. Am I still on the right track?


By joel hoffman on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 10:59 pm:

Anon, Was the TLT Decision a Mobile District solictiation that I read the other day?

I'm familiar with the evaluation criteria they use because my old boss and I originally developed it. In a design-bid-build RFP (in-house or A-E designed), we generally ask for a "Performance Capability" proposal, to determine which contractor is most capable or most likely to succeed. However we may occasionally ask for some "technical approach" information to determine how well the prospective contractor understands the project scope - especially on critical or extremely comlex designs.

Some typical Performance Capability factors (not all are always used):
organization: including home office support, field office organizational structure and staffing, management approaches to subcontracting, scheduling, project controls, quality control, etc.; key personnel staffing and qualifications, key subcontractors for critical systems, past perfromance, extent and relevance of recent experience, preliminary schedule, bidding the contract duration, subcontracting plans and past performance.

Cost may be of equal, greater or lesser importance - sometimes we use lowest=priced, technically acceptable approach, although that is trickier due the inevitable similarities in a go/no-go evaluation to "responsibility" criteria. That is another subject, too complex to get into, here.

Hope this helps, Happy Sails! Joel

By Anonymous on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 09:45 am:

Probably was the same decision, don't know if it was Mobile Dist. but it was COE project on barracks at Ft. Bragg.

Like I said, I have little knowledge of RFP actions, especially for construction. But let me see if I've got this half-way right. You usually request a "Performance Capability" proposal from offerors when going out with a "Design-Bid-Build" construction RFP.

The TLC decision refers to a "Technical Proposal" that included the following factors: experience, past performance (includes subfactors timeliness and quality), effectiveness of management, and compliance with safety standards.

So, is the TLC "Technical Proposal" the "Performance Capability" proposal you discussed above?

Also, thanks a lot for your feedback.


By Fred Weatherill on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 01:56 pm:


I am with a Civilian Agency and we have recently begun doing contstruction projects using RFPs. We believe that we have gotten excellent results using negotiation techniques for these acquisitions. Generally, we use these evaluation criteria; past performance and experience of the contractor, project co-ordination and approach to this project, past performance and experience of the sub-contractors, and schedule. Each criteria is accompanied by an explantation of what we expect to be included in the offeror's response. In the projects that I am personally familiar with, the design was government furnished, and we sent out the total package to interested offerors i.e specs, drawings, and sections A through M. Given our initial unfamiliarity with negotiated construction projects we spent a lot of time doing the evaluation,and the CO worked closely with the evaluation team. As I stated at the top of this message, we liked the results and are now doing it whenever it makes sense to do so.

By joel hoffman on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 11:04 pm:

Anon, the Ft. Bragg barracks was a Savannah District project.

To address your question, yes the "technical proposal" mentioned in the TLT Decision is what I refer to as a "performance capability" proposal. "Technical" is the FAR's generic term for the non-price portion of the proposal. FAR 15.3 uses the terms "quality" and "technical" sort of interchangeably.

Although "past performance" is a quality factor, it is separately addressed from other technical/quality factors, to stress its recently enhanced importance since the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, circa 1994 and Federal Acquisition Reform Act, circa 1995-96 ("Clinger-Cohen Act") . It's separately described because it is now a mandatory quality evaluation factor, regardless of whether other non-price factors are included in the RFP.

The offeror's management plan, organization, proposed key personnel and experience factors often were referred to as "MOPE", more recently called "Performance Capability" in many COE Districts (even though they are "technical factors" in the FAR). I coined the latter term several years ago. Since I teach the only COE course in construction source selection, its use has spread somewhat. I use the "Quality Proposal" term in construction RFP's to describe the non-price proposal; I use the term "technical proposal" to describe proposal factors related to physical or technical features of the proposal and "performance capability" for the MOPE features.

I'll try to soon publish some sample construction solicitation sections on "Proposal Submission Requirements" and "Evaluation Criteria" (corresponds to Sections "L" and "M" in service contracts, which use the Uniform Contract Format) on our Internet Design-Build Guidance.
Happy Sails! joel

By Anonymous on Monday, November 20, 2000 - 08:37 am:

Thanks so much. I believe I've got the jist of it now. Hopefully I'll never run into a situation where I'll absolutely need to use a construction RFP. Sounds a lot more difficult than construction IFB's. Again, I really appreciate the information.


By Vern Edwards on Monday, November 20, 2000 - 06:21 pm:


Allow me to suggest that it is very easy to use an RFP (i.e., competitive negotiation under FAR Part 15) to solicit proposals for a construction contract. The process need not be much more difficult than sealed bidding, and has many advantages over sealed bidding.

You do not need to ask the offerors for extensive "technical proposals." I would advise against asking contractors to submit proposals of the kind that Joel mentioned unless the project is very large and the competing offerors will be large construction firms.

For small to medium sized construction projects you can select the contractor based on the following four evaluation factors:

(1) experience with construction projects of the nature and scope of yours,

(2) past performance on such projects,

(3) understanding of the project based on proposed price realism, and

(4) price reasonableness.

If the project is expected to exceed $1,000,000, then you must also evaluate proposed small-disadvantaged business participation (subcontracting).

You should say in your RFP that nonprice factors are significantly more important than price.

The advantages of the RFP process (competitive negotiation) over sealed bidding are as follows: (a) before selecting the contractor you can ask for clarification from offerors in order to develop a more complete understanding of their proposed prices, (b) you can negotiate with offerors (conduct discussions) in order to bargain for better prices, (c) you do not have to award the contract to the low, responsive, responsible bidder, and (d) you can avoid the SBA's certificate of competency procedure, thereby avoiding award to a marginally competent firm. The main disadvantage of the RFP process is that it is usually more time-consuming and labor intensive than sealed bidding, although it need not be so if an agency knows what it is doing.

I would say this to you: If you are satisfied with the project results that you are getting now using sealed bidding, then stick with it. However, if you find that you are frequently dealing with marginally competent firms and that this is causing problems during project delivery, think about switching to negotiated procurement.

Many agencies now use competitive negotiation to select construction contractors and they don't have any more trouble awarding contracts than they did when they used sealed bidding, and they often have fewer problems during project delivery.

If you decide to use negotiated procurement, do your homework. Make sure that you understand the rules and procedures.

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 07:33 am:

Anon, I generally agree with Vern, sorry to confuse you wuth my diatribe. However, for any project of size important enough to go with an RFP, instead of an IFB, I would also evaluate qualifications and experience of the proposed key personnel; if there are one or two key-critical-substantial trades, evaluate the proposed subcontractors, when the prime intends to subcontract this work.

These are two of the most important and useful subfactors. Key personnel will make or break the project and subcontractors will perform 80-90% of the actual construction. Primes generally don't do much self-performed work anymore (I also provide a form and definition for self-performed work - offeror fills it out and we evaluate go/no-go whether the prime will meet the minimum statute based requirements for self-performed work).

Primes can submit multiple key subs - we base the rating on the weakest of any alternatives proposed. Subs fill out one short form for each project they wish to offer as experience/past performance)

It's not difficult for you to ask for or to evaluate nor for contractors to submit "performance capability " proposals - they do it all the time for private clients, too. We use standardized forms for qualifications, experience and past performance. Easy to fill out, easy to evaluate, easy to make comparisons during the subsequent trade-off determination. Our contractors see the same format each time and it is no big deal to them.

Generally don't need a technical approach proposal for small to medium jobs, unless there is some feature of the project extremely complicated or difficult to find or furnish.

Happy Sails! Joel

By joel hoffman on Tuesday, November 21, 2000 - 07:40 am:

Forgot to mention that I agree with Fred, too. Happy Sails!  joel