Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Detailed Should Plans and Specifications Be for Construction Bid Documents?

Some public construction projects are very large and require extremely detailed design documents.  But there are also very small projects that may not require that the plans and specifications be as detailed.

What's the right level of detail?  How should public agencies make the decision about how detailed the design documents used during the bid process need to be?  Plans and specifications should be detailed enough to address at least the following items:
  • Equalize the bid process:  Do the bidders have enough information?  Are they all making the same assumptions?  Are they all bidding on the same work?
  • Meet owner expectations:  Do the design documents describe the work in sufficient detail so that the owner will get the project it anticipated being built?

  • Hold contractor accountable:  Are the design documents and the contract provisions clear enough so that the owner can hold the contractor accountable during construction to perform consistent with the owner's intent and needs?
  • Comply with regulations:  Are the design documents developed in sufficient enough detail so that appropriate permits can be issued, and so that the project is in compliance with building codes and other regulatory requirements?
Small Works Roster:  In Washington state, the law governing public works projects in which the contractor is selected through competition using a Small Works Roster, states that "detailed plans and specifications need not be included in the invitation" to bid (RCW 39.04.155 2c).  The list above provides a framework for what is detailed enough for the bid process for smaller projects.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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