Specifications & Performance documentation for Design & Build

Back in February of this year one of our early blog posts, titled ‘A Catalyst For Change‘, touched on the subject of Design & Build. Why is it used? Is it understood etc. etc?

Earlier this month we were asked by an architect about design & build contracts and how specifications and performance documentation should be produced in such an environment. Given that Schumann Consult (SCL) has a great deal of experience in Design & Build procurement we were delighted to able to provide valuable and thoughtful input. We also wanted to share some of our responses with you to see what you think and to get your thoughts – what did we miss? Did we get it right? We would love to hear your views.

The Question

We were recently asked the following question with regards to a project in the Middle East:

“The client intends to tender out the project as a design build, but the issue is how to control/ compare quotations from different contractors, from your experience can you advice us on how to proceed, such as creating a specifications/ performance document that contractors should comply with.”

Our Response

D&B can work very well so long as the process is properly managed. The main benefit of D&B is that the client can engage a contractor early (before the design is complete) and has a single contractual relationship with one entity who has responsibility for everything up to handover for a lump sum price.

The two areas of risk for the client in a D&B scenario are:

  1. Maintaining the agreed lump sum price during the post contract detailed design phase, and
  2. Maintaining the design and quality of the building.

D&B procurement is very flexible and the first decision is at what design stage to tender. In theory the tender can take place at RIBA stage B (Planning), C (Outline), D (Schematic) or E (Detailed). The most common time is after Stage D at which point the architect is novated to the winning contractor to complete the detailed design for the contractor. However if time is the main driver then the client may ask contractors to bid on planning drawings or stage C information with the architect already on his team. If this is the case then from the architects perspective the best approach is to team up with either the clients favoured contractor or all of the bidders pre tender as this gives you the best chance of being appointed to design the building.

Regarding tender documentation that can be used to compare quotes and enter into an agreement this is quite straightforward. In any D&B contract there are two key documents:

  1. The Employers Requirements which comprise drawings, specifications, conditions of tender and any relevant supporting documents or reports that define what the client is looking for. The ER’s are the documents used for tendering the work along with the Conditions of Contract and Bills of Quantities, and
  2. The Contractors Proposals which is the detailed response provided by the contractor with his bid. The CP’s detail what the contractor has priced in response to the ER’s i.e. his offer.

The process thereafter is for the client team to review the CP’s and check for compliance with the ER’s (identifying any anomalies or non conforming items). This allows a fair comparison between tenderers allowing the client to make an informed decision. Very often D&B tenderers will offer alternative solutions or interpret the ER’s slightly differently so proper review of bids is essential.

The final contract documents should then be drawn up reflecting what has been agreed during the evaluation process comprising revised drawings and specifications.

As far as specifications go, D&B presents particular challenges mainly arising from the fact that the client wishes to agree a lump sum price before the detailed design is complete and the specification must therefore take this into account, something which SCL are very experienced in dealing with this.

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann is the Founder and Director of Schumann Consult.
Mark Schumann

Posted on November 11, 2013 in Specifications

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