Request For Proposal In Construction - A Deep Dive Into RFP Strategies

Written by Bridget Cooper

DateJan 11, 2024
Reading time13 min read

A request for a proposal in construction is perhaps one of the most important documents in the construction industry. It entails the project scope, deadline, budget, and objectives that contractors must fulfill to win the project.

However, many general contractors miss out on lucrative contracts since they don't understand the construction RFP. They provide basic information in their bidding process, which fails to convince the project owner to consider their bids. Have you ever wondered what goes into the RFP process? Do you know which type of construction projects require the request for proposal?

This guide will discuss the construction RFP documents by going through each section. We will explain the details in each section to help project owners and contractors understand the document better. Additionally, we will look at the RFP strategies to help clients improve their construction request forms. But first, let’s define an RFP document.

What is a Request for Proposal Construction Document?

A construction request for proposal, RFP, is an invitation from a project owner requesting qualified and experienced contractors to submit comprehensive proposals. Project owners could be organizations, businesses, or government agencies. 

An RFP highlights all the crucial project details of the project, including designs, project scope, expectations, and deadlines. Understanding the RFP particulars helps streamline the bidding process by connecting the right contractors to the project.

An RFP and Invitation To Bid (ITB) might appear similar to many contractors but have a key difference. A construction RFP is used for complex construction projects, while an ITB is used for simpler construction projects. 

For instance, an RFP would be issued for government construction projects like roads, stadiums, and office buildings. An ITB is a construction request for simpler projects like roofing, renovation, and house repair. 

Now that we know what an RFP is, let’s look at its key components and why they are crucial.

The Anatomy of a Request to Proposal

An RFP has many details that need addressing by project owners and contractors. First, you must understand the document's contents before submitting construction bids. Doing so ensures the document targets the right general contractor for the job. Here are common details you'd find in an RFP:

Project Overview

The project overview is the first step in the entire RFP process. It sets the stage for successful bidding by capturing the essence of the project. 

This section of the request for proposal introduces the project to potential contractors by sharing the project vision and significance.

Thinks of it as a summary of the entire construction project. You'll find details like project location, size, sponsor, features, and challenges.

It's also a chance for contractors to learn about the project's scope and complexity. The construction company can strategize and find excellent ways to deliver the project with this information.

Contractors must study this section carefully to learn the project's purpose. They then use this information to mobilize the resources needed to achieve the objectives and goals.

Clients also highlight key qualifications and expertise they’re expecting from potential contractors in this section. It could be a past success in a similar project, financial capabilities, or skilled professionals. 

A construction company must pay attention to this section before submitting their proposals. Doing so ensures they submit a bid to a project they qualify for and have an actual chance of winning a bid. 

Scope of Work

In this section, the client gets into the nitty-gritty of the project by breaking it down into smaller tasks. They could include deliverables, milestones, and deadlines for each task. 

The project's scope of work is crucial to both the client and the contractor. The client communicates how the project should look and function once completed. On the other hand, the contractor has all the details and clarity to deliver the project as expected.

Let’s take a museum construction as an example. The client could break down the project into smaller tasks with their own milestones. In a construction project, expect land excavation, laying the foundation, building construction, finishings, and electrical and plumbing tasks. 

With this information, the general contractor would know which tasks to subcontract and which to handle. They’d also know the construction workers needed for this project. 

Besides understanding the project's finer details, a contractor can also estimate the overall project cost. They would also know the amount or percentage to include as a markup for the project

Bid Selection Criteria

The client lays out the RFP process of selecting the winning team. They tailor the selection process to ensure only the best contractor is selected. 

Past success and experience in a similar construction project are often the first things the client considers. They want to see you can handle and deliver a project of that magnitude successfully. The selection criteria section is your chance as a contractor to shine and convince the client you are what they seek. 

Secondly, clients prioritize construction firms with a healthy financial status. You have to prove you can start and complete the project without financial delays. Provide all the necessary financial documents to prove your case. 

Thirdly, ensure you mention your team composition. If the construction process requires electricians, structural engineers, or landscape architects, ensure you mention their qualifications and experience. Doing so helps convince the client that you have the right team and skills to handle the project. 

The last and probably the most important selection criterion is pricing. When issuing an RFP, clients often look for a contractor with the lowest bid. A contractor has to prove they can complete the project at the quoted price and not compromise the quality. 

Proposal Requirements

Every client has a preference regarding the proposal submission. One of the requirements is the proposal format. The client specifies whether they prefer the traditional paper RFP or an online RFP platform. Some clients might prefer a hybrid format that combines paper and online construction RFPs. 

There are unique situations where a client would require a two-stage RFP. In such cases, clients have to go through a pre-qualification stage where the client assesses their suitability for the project. Once clients are confident of their qualifications and experience, they are invited to continue with the RFP process. 

Besides the proposal format, the client might ask for additional documents from contractors. Such documents include certification, license to operate, and insurance.

Sometimes, the client might ask for a project approach to understand how you’ll cover the entire project. They’d want to see your proposed methodology, teams, and expected timelines to complete the project. The essence of such information is determining if you understand the project and whether your approach is unique compared to other construction companies. 

Timeline and Schedule

Construction projects are time-sensitive, and a client wishes to work with someone who can deliver the final project on time. 

In this section, the client highlights the expected deadline for every task within the project. It’s common to see deadlines for questions regarding the project. Such deadlines help clients avoid wasting more time answering questions from contractors and spend it on other sensitive aspects of the project, like reviewing proposals. 

Clients also state the RFP submission deadline for all contractors. It’s perhaps the most important detail of the entire RFP document, as it sets the tone for when submissions will end and evaluations begin.

You may have the best pitch and be the most qualified among all contractors, but your submission won’t be reviewed if you send it late. 

Finally, the client would state their evaluation and team selection date. Doing so helps every contractor have a fixed date when they’d receive feedback to know if they won the project. 

Now that we know what’s included in an RFP, let’s look at some strategies project owners must follow to develop a proper RFP. 

RFP Strategies to Solicit the Right Proposals

As a project owner, you want to attract the best construction companies to bid for your project. Compiling a few details about your project isn’t enough. You must explain the project's particulars and why contractors should send their proposals. 

That’s where construction RFP strategies come in. Many construction clients spend their time fine-tuning the details in an RFP to ensure they cover all the angles. Here are a few strategies you can use when crafting your next RFP. 

Understand Your Project Inside Out

A clear and detailed vision is the backbone of any construction project’s success. Before writing anything, you must understand your project properly. You must understand the project's functions, the materials needed, the design and plans, and the expected timeline.

Given that construction RFPs are issued for large-scale projects, you should expect the project to involve many details. 

The best way to achieve this information is by working with engineers and architects to create designs and plans for the project. These professionals also help break the project into smaller tasks and define each task’s objectives, plans, and deadlines.

Clients should know the type of materials needed for every construction section, the type of labor and profession required, and the intended function. 

Understanding your project ensures you communicate effectively with contractors. In return, the contractors help to bring your vision to life. It also comes in handy when a contractor contacts you to clarify any task or objective.

Spend as much time as you need to complete the project task by task. Seek professional guidance and opinions from qualified people to help address every potential issue or obstacle that would jeopardize the project. 

Customize your Requirements

Every construction project is unique, and so should your RFP. Although it’s tempting to use a generic RFP as it saves you time, you risk missing out on the key project components. 

A generic construction RFP template is ideal for guiding you through the writing process. It helps explain the steps and details needed in each section. However, you must still customize the details to match your desired project. 

For instance, you'd want to include objectives like project complexity, contract terms, the evaluation process, project schedule, designs, and the project's purpose. Such information is unique to a specific project, helping general contractors understand the bidding requirements and how to deliver the project best.

You should mention the project’s objectives, goals, and outcomes. It helps clear things for the contractor, giving them an idea of how you want the project to appear. 

Let’s take an office building as an example. You should mention objectives like the number of offices, their sizes, and purpose, like conference rooms and main offices. Going into such details ensures the contractor understands your requirements and delivers a successful construction project. 

Besides deliverables, you should explain what you require from the potential contractors. Is there a specific qualification you require? It could be an industry-specific certification like HIPAA for healthcare facilities. 

These qualifications serve as a differentiator for interested construction firms. 

Be Clear and Straight to the Point

Now that you understand the project, it’s time to write your RFP. Clarity is crucial as it speeds up the RFP process, from sending invitations to receiving proposals. The sooner you can get a qualified contractor, the sooner the project can begin.

Use clear language to communicate with the contractors. Keep it professional and avoid using technical terms, slang, or jargon, as they confuse many contractors. 

Instead, use simple English, and don’t be afraid to go into details to clarify any project stage. 

Explain the project goals and objectives to help contractors understand the expected and desired outcomes.

**What is the project’s purpose, deliverables, and scope? Do you expect tangible results? **

Lay out the expected milestones and deadlines to help contractors schedule their work properly. 

You should include charts and diagrams to illustrate the deliverables and scope. Providing these details to contractors ensures they have everything needed to complete and deliver the project as requested. 

Ask the Right Questions

The best way to understand a contractor’s capabilities and qualifications is by asking the right questions. The answers to these questions come in handy when evaluating a suitable contractor. 

For instance, you could ask them how they would adhere to the latest safety regulations and building codes during the project. You could also ask about their team’s specific licenses and certifications that are relevant to the project. 

Think of this section as a mini-interview. It’s a chance for you to gain insight into contractors interested in the project. 

The answers you receive will help you filter out undesired and unqualified contractors, leaving you with those who are fit for the project. 

When working on this section of an RFP, we would recommend seeking advice from experts. They know the right questions to ask to ensure you target only the right candidates. 

These basic RFP strategies will help you craft a relevant document. They also help contractors decide whether or not to send proposals for the project. 

Set Realistic Expectations

The excitement of a new project may force clients to set unrealistic goals. Some clients get the wrong idea that having contractors compete for a project would lower the budget further. Instead, they end up with an unqualified or unsuitable contractor who charges less and produces a substandard project. 

Realistic construction goals spread further than finances. They include project demands. While it’s okay to highlight the demands to help contractors bring the idea to life, it’s equally important to provide them the flexibility to provide alternative solutions. 

For instance, you’ll provide designs and drawings to the contractor that they have to follow. The contractor might have a few suggestions about the designs to help accelerate the project or even cut costs. Allowing them this freedom promotes a collaborative environment, which ensures timely and accurate project completion. 

Acknowledge construction challenges that contractors might face throughout the project. Does the project require complex techniques? Make sure you mention that. What about the weather conditions? Will it be an obstacle to the project?

These are some potential challenges contractors face when working on a project. With these challenges in mind, it’s easy to be realistic with deadlines and project timelines. 

Final Thoughts

An RFP helps connect clients with qualified and experienced contractors in the construction industry. Clients use it to outline their projects, providing enough details to help contractors understand the scope of work.

Contractors also use this document to analyze and understand the project requirements, making their bidding process accurate and targeted.

An RFP process involves fulfilling several sections, including the scope of work and qualifications. Clients rely on the information provided by the contractors after going through the RFP to pick the preferred bid. 

Although it’s okay to have higher expectations about the project, it’s critical for clients to have realistic goals. In short, they shouldn’t overestimate the project outcomes or underestimate the obstacles. 

Clients must understand their projects well to help them write a detailed and useful RFP document. They must also customize the requirements to make them specific to the project.

An RFP serves as a guide in the construction industry to help contractors identify suitable projects and clients see their visions brought to life.

Written by Bridget CooperUpdated on Feb 23, 2024

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