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Déjà vu

Don’t you worry, don’t you whine ’cause if you get it wrong, you’ll get it right next time.—from “Get It Right Next Time” by Gerry Rafferty

You download the bid docs with mixed feelings. It takes only a glance at the floor plan to recognize that it’s the exact replication of a job you bid five years prior. The obvious upside lies in your familiarity and the attendant ease with which you will be able to perform the upcoming task. The ambivalence stems from your recollection that you weren’t awarded the job, nor did you receive any feedback as to why. You followed up and got crickets.


You switch your mind back to the upside but note that your firm’s policy is to archive no lost estimates beyond one year. The hope of taking that shortcut is instantly extinguished. No matter. Your cerebral acquaintance with the wall types and details should make creating and building the conditions a snap.


The job entails the buildout of an existing shell—one vacant floor of an occupied hospital tower. You’ve already recognized that the floor plan is identical to the other floors. Identical, that is, with the possible exception of a number of RFI resolutions that emerged during the initial construction.


In addition, a scope sheet is provided with the bid docs to direct you as to what you are expected to include. You recall a similar set of directives the last time, but this list seems more extensive. You scan the sheets for any “gotchas” that might have eluded you before. There are several quirky requirements, as expected, some of which you don’t recall including before—castle-cutting at the tops of all full-height partitions, high impact board at all corridor walls, glass-mat/moisture resistant board full height at all wet walls, sealant at both sides of smoke walls, and putty pads on electrical boxes at all sound-rated walls—just to name a few. You wonder if you included these items last time, if they were added after the previous bid, or if (the unthinkable) you missed one or more of them.


You note that there is a mandatory job walk tomorrow morning. You finish the day taking off walls, but you delay building conditions until after the site visit.


The morning sun sheds some additional light on the subject. You meet the GC’s precon man in the hospital lobby, and you’re pretty sure he’s the same guy you dealt with over the phone five years ago. You suppress an urge to ask him why he failed to get back with you on the last bid. Knowing where you landed might help you on this current effort. Instead, you ride the freight elevator in silence up to the fifth floor, quietly noting the 12-foot depth of the car.


As the doors slide open, you eyeball the deck and immediately register a foreboding issue. You put a tape on it to confirm your fear: The deck height is 15 feet—a good 90 percent of your studs will not fit in the freight elevator. The precon guy says they will remove a window if need be to stock, but even so, tight conditions surrounding the tower will make booming a serious reach—literally. You make a note to have your material supplier arrange a site visit to assess the logistics and price accordingly.


You look around and recognize more potential problems. Fortunately, the interior layout was done along with the shell to verify stub-outs for the MEP rough-ins, and the ductwork is already installed overhead. You can see where the full height walls will fall, and the outlook is grim. Rated walls running under and parallel with trunk runs are everywhere. The precon guy assures that ductwork will be disassembled where needed, but conditions will still require much offset framing to accommodate the overhead crowding. You make note of this, along with the fact that the beams are all fireproofed. That means chipping, clipping and patching will all fall into your scope. You note too that the interior of the exterior walls are hung and fire-taped, but many sections will have to be demoed and replaced with tile-backer board to meet that requirement at restrooms. You now wonder out loud why you seem to be the only drywall sub on the walk, and the precon guy informs you that other bidders had performed identical buildouts here more recently and are aware of the stringent requirements and challenging conditions. You wonder if you even did a site walk the first time around.


You return to your office a sadder but wiser bidmeister. You work hard to incorporate the required labor for all of the various added impediments into your assemblies. You slow your production levels to a crawl. You add hours for every conceivable contingency, seen and unseen. You present a very detailed and very fat proposal on bid day.


You wait a week and follow with a phone call. Crickets again.


You call a friendly competitor to get some perspective. He laughs and informs you that you were the only bidder—that every drywall sub in town had taken a haircut on that building and would never go near it again. You call all the material suppliers in town, and they confirm that they had no price requests other than yours.


The phone rings and it’s the precon guy, asking for a scope review. That’s when you say “Oh my!” like a spider to a fly.

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

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