The traditional method of construction procurement, Design-Bid-Build, involves hiring an architect and completing full design of the station before any budgets are provided, then soliciting bids from contractors. Once the bid solicitations are complete, typically the procuring entity along with the architect will evaluate the bids they received and select the cheapest bidder. Under this scenario, it can take several iterations of the plans and resoliciting for bids, as initial budgets may not be met. This process may or may not be the best fit for your station construction procurement needs.
Another effective method of construction procurement called Design-Build involves selecting the most qualified fire station design-build firm who handles the entire process for the procurement director. Typically, a request for qualifications is sent to design-build firms. This qualifications package will be responded to by firms who feel they are qualified to lead both the architectural design and construction of your new station. When using the design-build approach, the officer in charge of the procurement will evaluate the submitted packages and select the firm that is most qualified to perform the project.
The selection of a design-build firm is based on qualifications only; no price component is taken into consideration during the selection phase. Once selected, the design-builder will work with the station’s building committee to provide a design that meets the budget parameters and requirements as set forth. The design-build method offers advantages including a single point of contact, faster time to finished construction and cost control.
An additional purchasing method, not widely utilized but now available to all federal, state and municipal governments, is the GSA Schedule. This approach is designed to provide a fast, easy and effective contracting vehicle for government entities. The GSA schedule has established long-term, government-wide contracts with commercial companies and vendors, and it provides its customers access to millions of different services and products. This results in cost savings, flexibility and choice, shorter lead times, transparency, control of the procurement process, lower administrative costs and reduced inventories for customers.
The GSA schedule is regulated by two major federal regulations. The first is the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which codifies the policy for federal acquisition of supplies and services, of which construction is one of them. The second is the General Services Administration Acquisition Manual (GSAM), which addresses acquisition policies, practices, contracts, solicitation provisions, and the forms that control the relationship between the GSA and prospective contractors. All contractors on the GSA schedule are pre-approved for procurement by federal, state and municipal governments. To learn more about this method of governmental procurement, visit www.gsa.gov.
Yet another form of purchasing and procurement that is not prominently known is the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA). This alliance leverages the national purchasing power of more than 50,000 member agencies while also streamlining the requirements for the purchasing process. The NJPA is designed to serve municipalities by establishing nationally leveraged and competitively solicited purchasing contracts under guidance of the Uniform Municipal Contracting Law. Joint Powers laws allow member municipalities to legally purchase through the previously awarded contracts. This is accomplished by establishing a business and service alliance between member buyers and the contracted suppliers, which ensures a successful purchasing program through the national cooperative contract program. For more information on the NJPA program, visit www.njpacoop.org.
As you embark on the journey of procuring construction for your new station, take time to evaluate all the offerings that are on the table. There are many advantages to some of the newer contracting vehicles, and you will experience a smoother process if you select the one that best fits your organization, its makeup and its goals.
Ben Wilson is President of Bobbitt Design Build’s South Carolina division.