Request for Proposal (RFP)

ECHO Journal: Ask the Expert January 27, 2012

“What is a “request for proposal”? The association I belong to needs to have some roofing and siding work done, and I’ve been told that the best way to get contractors to bid the job is to provide them with a proposal request. What type of information needs to be in the document?

A “request for proposal” (commonly referred to as RFP) is a document drafted by a building owner or association that formally requests bid solicitation for material, services, construction, or repair of a building, system, or component. Commonly used when soliciting bids on larger projects, RFPs are increasingly being used by associations on smaller jobs as a tool to clarify and detail the work being desired. An RFP usually contains specific information about the services being requested, and the information necessary for a bid proposal to be considered by the association. Along with a scope of work, a RFP can ensure that contractors bidding on the job are bidding to perform the work in the same manner with the same material.

Repairs to buildings and components of a Common Interest Development are often very specific and must be done on a periodic basis with minimal impact on the residents. Although repairs to a complex may be major (siding or roof replacement) or minor (replacing light fixtures, signage), specifying the needs of the association with how the work is done and what is expected of the contractor will always lead to a better overall project.

Associations are charged with the responsibility to maintain and repair the complex and ensure that the repairs to a complex are performed by qualified contractors and properly done in an efficient manner. Creating an RFP can be a valuable tool when requesting any repairs or reconstruction. A RFP can be a simple one page document or it can be more detailed depending upon the size of the work being requested and the needs of the association. It can be drafted by the association, a construction consultant, or a project manager.

As a basic template, a RFP should have two main parts. The first part would contain a summary of the work to be performed, the general expectations of the association during the course of the project, an estimated time frame for the work to be done, a scope of work listing methods of installation and materials to be used, and any special requirements the association may have with regards to access to the units, where material may be stored, and parking of company vehicles.

The second part of the RFP should detail the submission requirements for contractors presenting proposals. Determine what information you will need from each bidding contractor to ensure that the firm is qualified and capable to do the work. Ask the contractor to describe how the work will be performed and how the contractor will address any special issues associated with the job. This section should also require contractors to state they are properly licensed and equipped to perform the work, the contact information of the company and foreman on the job, certificates of insurance for general liability, professional liability, and workers compensation.

The RFP should clearly state the date proposals are to be submitted, and the date a decision will be made to award the contract. Be sure to request a list of at least three previous jobs that closely reflect the work being anticipated Prior to selecting a bid proposal, someone from the association must inspect the properties listed as a reference to determine if the quality of the work performed meets with their satisfaction.
Sending out an RFP will inevitably trigger phone calls and questions from bidding contractors and requests for site visits to review the project. Associations should appoint one individual to handle all of the information requests and site visits to ensure each contractor sees and receives the same information. This person could be a committee member, a construction consultant, or project manager, and should be familiar with the project and the association’s needs.

It is important to remember that bidding a job takes time and manpower that a contractor normally does not charge for. Reputable contractors will not bid jobs that are poorly defined, and they are hesitant to work with associations that do not appear to be organized, do not have a single point of contact, or cannot make timely decisions. Even in these tough economic times, good contractors will be selective in who they will work for, and under what conditions. If a request for bids is not clearly stated, it will be harder for an association to determine if the bidding contractors are truly qualified and whether they are actually bidding on the same work

As a final note, when you do ask contractors to submit proposals for work, it is professional courtesy to notify each of the firms submitting proposals the outcome of the bid review. Whether a contractor is awarded a proposal or not, they have invested a lot of time in preparing the bid and they deserve to be told what the board decided. A proper notice should include the statement that the association has chosen not to accept the contractor’s proposal, and that they appreciated the time and effort the contractor spent in preparing their bid. This can be done via a letter, an email, or a simple phone call.

John R Schneider is a licensed General Building Contractor, and certified Code Specialist. Since 1985, he has been president of All About Homes, Inc., an East Bay consulting company that specializes in the investigation of construction related deficiencies, the management of projects, and the facilitation of disputes between owners, associations, and vendors. Mr. Schneider is a member of the ECHO Maintenance Panel. Questions or comments can be directed to Mr. Schneider at jrschneider@allabouthomes.com.

Scenic Mountain Developements

It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while, great innovations are made where people and the environment can both benefit. Imagine a community where people can live, work and shop, while at the same time enjoying clean air, low utility costs, and low housing costs. Now imagine this community in Northern California. Most developers and builders would say this is impossible, but one developer, Scenic Mountain Development, LLC, of the Bay Area is in the process of designing and building one of the most ambitious green building projects ever considered in the United States.

The project is called Sierra Meadow Village and is being developed in Lassen County, in a town called Herlong. Herlong is about 40 minutes north of Reno, and about 30 minutes south of Susanville California. The goal of the project is to build a small, truly affordable community that contains a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and light industrial uses that meet the energy and renewable resource requirements of most federal and state programs. Once completed, this project will be historic in proportion, and become a model for the industry to follow.

Sierra Meadow Village is being built on a portion of land that was donated by Sierra Army Depot to Lassen County for public use and development. The overall Village design emphasizes a diverse mix of land uses within walking range of each other, smaller lot sizes along with public gathering spots, and a main community park, all interconnected by a comprehensive street and walkway system. The commute will be short enough for residents to bicycle to jobs, businesses, or shopping. Yet, the true innovations of this development are the way it will be constructed, and the energy efficient systems that will be used in all aspects of the development.

To discuss the innovations of this project, I spoke with Gene Grillo, president of Bullseye Homes, and project manager for Scenic Mountain Development. Gene began by saying, “The beauty of this project is that it employs extensive creativity in its design to exceed most current energy requirements, while using cost saving and green technologies in most phases of construction. And we can do this because we have assembled a team of the best electrical, mechanical, and solar engineers to assist us in the design of this development.”

“The green technologies we will be using include biodiesel for construction equipment fuel, fuel cells, photovoltaic solar and wind power generation to bring electricity to the homes, and solar water and space heating. The buildings in the development will be constructed with energy efficient envelopes by utilizing the Structural Insulated Panels for the exterior skin of the buildings yielding higher than standard insulation values. These panels will be manufactured on site, which will eliminate transportation and handling costs.”

Gene stated that construction innovations will include the use of helical piers to support the residential units. Helical piers resemble huge metal screws that are turned into the soil, and act as foundation supports. Heating options include the use of solar radiant heating in floors, the use of Biomass heaters which use corn pellets for fuel, as well as energy efficient furnaces and duct systems. Solar lighting will be used for all external applications, and interior lighting will be supplied by a combination of fiber optics, and low consumption halogen and fluorescent fixtures. Supplementing interior light will be multiple window openings, skylights, and solar tubes. There will also be the option of gray water recycling where water from sinks and tubs can be filtered and used for irrigation.

When I asked Gene why most builders are not using these technologies, he pointed out, “Most builders do not want to change how they do things unless they are forced to by market demands. The also don’t want to invest time and money needed to be able to incorporate this new technology into their construction without real justification.”

“However, we realized the tremendous opportunity in combining the innovative technologies available today to create a new level of housing that produces very little impact to the environment. The biggest achievement of this development is that the housing will be affordable not only in terms of their purchase prices (condos will start from the low $100,000.00, and homes from the low $140,000.00), but the yearly utility savings will have the ability exceed their mortgage costs.”

Grillo mentioned that part of Scenic Mountain Development’s ability to be cost efficient in building this development is that they are near the near the technological center of the photovoltaic and SIP development. This means access to the skilled labor necessary to install these green systems and components. They are also getting support from Lassen County and the Army.

The project is scheduled to begin construction within the next few months, and when it is finished, it will be a model for the rest of the nation. For more information about this development or the innovative technologies being used, you can contact Gene Grillo at 1-530-827-2001 or 800-495-3544.