Vince Bailey / September 2020

“It’s like déjà vu all over again!”—from Yogi Berra

I seem to be doing a lot of re-bids lately, and it makes me wonder what the reason might be. I’d like to think that maybe somebody recognized that the bid set of plans on the first go-round was “conceptual” at best. But given the chicken scratch that I’ve seen that’s been passed off as “100%” over the years, I am doubtful of the contrition theory. Besides, from the do-over plans that have come back to my desk, I’d say the level of ambiguity has pretty much stayed consistently high.
Anyway, it stands to reason that the decision to suspend the process and return to it later must lie with the owner, not the architect. Perhaps the initial sticker-shock that the owner suffered when first presented with the grand total called for some down time for soul-searching—a meditation that culminated in a directive for the design team to go back to the drawing board, literally. The problem with this is that every owner knows, or should know, that a delay will invariably inflate the cost of a project beyond any value engineering that the design team can come up with. Labor and material costs only go up with passing time. It’s a universal rule.
The most valid reason for an owner’s wariness in 2020 is 2020. More specifically, investors have been gun-shy this year for dual reasons: the virus lockdowns, and election year jitters. As a precautionary measure, many owners suspended activity on projects when the lockdowns were announced. This appropriate wait-and-see period yielded mixed messages, but some indications were positive enough to spur a resumption of activity. Stimulus programs helped keep the construction industry functioning, and upward trends promoted by the re-openings convinced many owners to take the hold off of funding and put their projects back into the pipeline. Then too, the few months of suspension allowed investors to identify what areas of production would actually thrive under the “new normal.” Clearly the most evident category of construction to prosper from the pandemic was and is health care. Here in the Southwest, hospitals are sprouting up like mushrooms after a prolonged downpour. Similarly, investors are hopping off the proverbial fence as candidates unveil proposed policies—some touting the green energy industry, with others favoring traditional fossil fuel businesses.
Whatever the reason (and I suspect it’s a combination of the scenarios suggested above), there’s no denying that we bidmeisters are currently being inundated with rebids. Not that I mind it. In fact, there are a number of advantages to rebidding work, including familiarity, less work, correction of possible errors, increased confidence, and better knowledge of standing.
Familiarity with the basic organization of the plans allows me to flip through them effortlessly, knowing which pages contain the information that is critical to the bid. Many architects are thoughtful enough to cloud and delta any changes made from the prior submittal. However, the wary quantifier knows not to depend solely on these annotations. Changes are frequently made where annotations may be inadvertently omitted. The most dependable method to identify changes is to utilize the overlay function of the takeoff program.
An advantage related to familiarity lies in the fact that much of the work is already done. The applicable conditions are already built, and 90% of the takeoff is probably still accurate. And more often than not, the time allotted for the final submission is close or equal to the window given on the original bid. The familiarity and ease of effort that come with revisiting a bid along with the generous time allowance contribute to a higher level of confidence in the final product—no more worries over errors and omissions that previously haunted sleepless nights.
An additional advantage to those outlined above comes with a better knowledge of standing. Any post-bid feedback from the previous go-round can be used to form a better strategy to be (or stay) competitive. Just the fact that you were invited to re-bid is probably an indicator that your number was in the central cluster. GCs are not likely to invite outliers in either direction.
It would be my usual practice at this point to call attention to the down side of re-bids, but to be honest, I can’t think of a single negative issue of any significance. In fact, I kind of enjoy getting a second crack at a bid. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Vince Bailey is an estimator/project manager working in the Phoenix area.