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Balderdash, Commissioning RFP’s & The Benefits Of Clarity

Balderdash, Commissioning RFP’s & The Benefits of Clarity

​Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 39) – All IMHO:

Balderdash (a polite term for bulls*!t from the UK), is how I would describe many of the Commissioning RFP’s I see. If so, what should a Commissioning RFP contain?

The key requirement here is CLARITY, what is required has to be clear. However it should be noted that “opaqueness” has benefits to the writers of RFP’s and clients who like to change their minds and keep respondents “on the hook”. I have lost count of the specifications I have seen with “weasel clauses” that let the writer off the hook for lack of clarity. 

Clarity is the antidote to bulls*!t, it enhances accountantability. Clarity is of benefit to professionals and clients and a nightmare to people and firms that lack integrity.

There are two aspects to a Commissioning RFP, qualifying the firms and describing the scope of work to be priced. 

I am a fan of qualification based selection for professional services as it avoids the pitfalls of none compliant low bid providers getting through the net. Therefore IMHO the RFP should be in two clear parts, qualification and fee against detailed scope of work. 

Commissioning Firm Qualifications

  • Be a registered corporation, not a privateer working out of a home basement. 
  • Have $5m E&O insurance cover.
  • Be an independent firm with technical Commissioning services at the core.
  • Have documented and referenced experience of 5 similar projects.
  • Have dedicated Commissioning professionals on staff not designers and field representatives with insufficient work.
  • Be multi disciplined i.e. MEP and controls engineering as a minium. 
  • Be certified with a professional Commissioning organization (specify which ones). I recommend NEBB, ACG & CSA (UK). See my previous post on this. 

Commissioning Scope of Work

  • Provide a detailed project description including area schedules, drawings & specs (if available) plus green building objectives, if any.
  • Specify the standards and codes to be adhered to. Be specific and do not do the “weasel” list of every conceivable commissioning standard and code in the world. 
  • List the systems to be commissioned. If the life safety, fire alarm, envelope and security systems need commissioning then please say so. 
  • If the project is international, then be specific on what codes and standards to follow. For example on a project in the Middle East with a North American design team use North American Commissioning codes.
  • Provide the bidders a programme of work with a clear completion date. Asking a Commissioning firm to take risk on construction overruns when they have no control over that outcome is asking for high bids and small firms to go out of business leaving the project having to find a new firm at additional cost. 
  • Provide a clear scope of work for each project phase (Inception, Design, Tender, Cosntruction, Post occupancy). If there is no requirement for Commissioning input at a certain phase, then say so. 
  • Specify sampling rates for large systems. 
  • Specify the number of meetings to be run by the Commissioning provider based on the programme of work. 
  • Specify the number of site inspections during the pre-start up construction phase.
  • Specify Global Systems Integration Testing.
  • Require the Commissioning provider to produce a logic diagram and Gantt chart with dependancies for the Commissioning. 
  • Require the Commissioning provider to provide a labour histogram and the total number of man-hours included within the fee. 
  • Measures of success? To keep this post brief, please see my previous post on Commissioning KPI’s. 

As a rule of thumb, to get 3 good complaint bids you need 5 bidders. I would also recommend interviewing the final 3 shortlisted firms.

If the above criteria are used the benefits should be;

  • Compliant, easily comparable bids.
  • Fees within a reasonable range and few outliers.
  • Inclusive fee for service with reduced stress managing the successful bidder.

When you procure professional Commissioning services you are buying knowledge, integrity and time. Generally, the lower the fee the lower the time element and very low fees mean shortcuts will be taken.

Performance managing a low bidder who is under resourced takes time & money and is a risk issue for the project and client. Who takes responsibility when a Commissioning provider fails, walks away or goes bust? IMHO it is worth the time to procure carefully! 

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