Invitation To Bid vs Request for Proposal: The Differences You Should Know

Written by Bridget Cooper

DateFeb 20, 2024
Reading time5 min read
construction site mixed with landscape

Project owners in the construction industry use two main methods to solicit bids from contractors: Invitation to Bid (ITB) and Request for Proposal (RFP)

Both methods help evaluate bids from different contractors, create healthy competition, and aim to make the bidding process clear and transparent. But despite these shared goals, though, each approach has its unique features and caters to different construction project needs.

What is An Invitation to Bid? 

An Invitation to Bid – also known as an ITB – represents a formal invitation that a project owner or client extends to qualified contractors to submit bids for a specific construction project. It typically includes the following:

This comprehensive package ensures that all competing bidders have access to the same information, removing bias and promoting fairness during the construction procurement process.

ITBs work well for straightforward projects with a well-defined scope, where there's little room for interpretation or ambiguity. The focus is on the best price, rather than how the bidder plans to complete the project. 

There’s very little difference in varying construction products or services, so contractors compete based on their pricing. The lowest responsive and responsible bidder is typically awarded the private or government contract. Or, in other words, the lowest bidder with the best value who can still meet all the requirements.

Unlike a Request for Proposal – where contractors propose unique solutions – an ITB requires contractors to stick to the outlined plan and strictly follow the client's requirements without introducing new concepts. Providing this clear framework ensures that all the contractors have a clear understanding of exactly what is expected of them and allows for a straightforward evaluation process.

When are Invitations to Bid Used?

Generally, ITBs are most common for government contracts, but they can also be used in the private sector. Here are some situations they can come into play:

  • For projects with standard designs, specifications, and materials, ITBs simplify and streamline the bidding process. 
  • When the construction budget is tight, ITBs can help provide cost-effective solutions without compromising quality.
  • For routine maintenance or repetitive projects, ITBs allow project owners to maintain consistency in contractor selection and evaluation criteria.
  • Projects with minimal customization requirements and low complexity benefit from having a standardized template for soliciting bids

You can make a copy of our free Invitation For Bid template here. 

What is A Request for Proposal (RFP)?

A Request for Proposal in construction, on the other hand, is a comprehensive document that invites contractors to submit competitive proposals that outline their project approach, pricing, schedule, and qualifications for a specific project. 

Unlike ITBs, RFPs consider both the cost and the quality of the contractor's ideas. This means contractors can suggest new and innovative ways to complete the project, not just bid the lowest price. 

The goal is to award a contractor who is not just capable but uniquely suited for the project. For this reason, project owners prioritize the following: 

  • Approach
  • The contractor's ability to meet project timelines and deadlines
  • Past project experience relevant to the current project.
  • Other elements that directly impact the overall quality of the construction project.

Consider, for instance, a real estate developer looking to construct an eco-friendly office complex. With an RFP, the developer will often outline the overall vision and goals but allow flexibility in proposed solutions. Contractors can then propose creative design concepts, sustainable construction methods, or innovative project management approaches to achieve the developer's vision. 

In this case, the RFP goes beyond a rigid set of requirements, and instead, encourages contractors to offer fresh perspectives. And the result is a more tailored and forward-thinking approach to the construction project.

When are RFPs Used?

When the project scope might change or isn't entirely clear at the start, RFPs give contractors room to propose complete solutions.

For projects needing personalized services or solutions, where meeting basic requirements is not enough, and providing extra value takes priority. 

Projects focusing on achieving specific outcomes or performance metrics, rather than strict specifications, may use RFPs to encourage innovation and flexibility in proposals.

When project owners have to assess contractors' qualifications, RFPs are often the preferred procurement method for reviewing past performance, experience, and ability to meet project goals.

In complex projects where innovative solutions or fresh approaches could make a difference, RFPs let contractors showcase their creativity and expertise beyond standard requirements.

Streamline the Construction Procurement Process

Bid platforms such as DowntoBid make the process of soliciting bids, evaluating proposals, and awarding contracts much more straightforward. With this platform, you can create and send tailored and personalized bid invitations to subcontractors with just a few clicks.

This automation ensures a seamless match between identified bid packages and the most suitable subcontractors. The result? The right contractors are invited to bid on the relevant parts of the project.

But there are a lot more features that make DowntoBid a top-rated bid invitation software. You can explore the full range of benefits the platform provides by trying it for free today.

Written by Bridget CooperUpdated on Feb 23, 2024

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