When starting a project, an organization may wonder: How will I select an architect or contractor? How will I solicit proposals for a move vendor? An Owner’s Representative (OR) can lead the process on behalf of your organization. They will help identify the goals & requirements, pull together qualification or proposal documents, and guide the owner through the process of selecting their project partner(s).
When helping a client identify their project goals, it’s important to first identify the project GPS (Guiding Project Statement). This statement will act as the driving force behind the project, answering questions like “Why are you making a change?” and “What are the goals you want to achieve?” Next comes the budget. Owner’s representatives help clients identify how much they can spend and determine the best project delivery method. They also assist in the overall project schedule development, from the start date to the completion date, and whether or not to phase the project. Lastly, ORs help clients identify key project stakeholders and decision-makers when it comes to hiring an architect, contractor, or vendor for the project.
How Do I Solicit For Pricing?
Whether you are looking to hire an architect, a contractor, or another consultant or vendor, the process is similar for all roles, and it normally includes an RFP or RFQ.
RFP (Request for Proposal) versus RFQ (Request for Qualifications)?
RFQ – Request for Qualification - An RFQ is typically used for professional services, such as hiring an architect, engineer, or construction manager. This allows the Owner to select the best firm for the project, based upon qualifications only, with fees negotiated once the firm has been selected.
RFP – Request for Proposal - An RFP is used for goods or services in a competitive bid setting and includes not only the qualifications but also the fee. This is used to evaluate the best company for the best price. This can also be called a request for a quote.
Is there a list of preferred vendors?
Sometimes, the owner will have a preference on who they want to work with. This can be based on previous experience or advice from their OR. Additionally, if in a leased location, the landlord may have vendors that they are required to use for certain types of work. It is to the advantage of the owner to solicit proposals from more than one company to ensure that they are getting the best price from the right vendor.
What information do you want to see in the RFP or RFQ responses?
Typically, you want to ask each firm to respond to specific topics or questions that you want to evaluate. Some of these are:
Firm profile – Who are they and what is their experience? Have them provide a summary of the company’s history.
Examples of work – Do they have any projects in their portfolio that are similar to your project scope?
Schedule – Can they complete the project/job within the timeframe? If they cannot, what are the factors that are impacting their ability to meet your schedule?
Budget – Can they complete the project/job within the established budget? If they cannot, do they have any options that they can propose to get you within budget?
Team members – Who will you be working with? Identify who will be on the team and include resumes. Ask them to outline what roles each team member will have during the project. Have them highlight the point of contact it is important to know who you will be working with and to make sure they are a good fit for your organization.
Special requirements - Experience with any special requirements for your organization. For example, sustainability certifications, or diversity requirements.
Site visit/office visit requirements – Do you want to go visit examples of completed work? Is it beneficial to visit the firm’s office to see how they work? Do you want them to visit the project site prior to submitting their RFQ or RFP?
Short List/Next Steps - Will there be a shortlist of firms that will move onto the next selection phase? Or have you sent the request out to a select few that you feel are qualified? You want to let them know what the next steps will be in the selection process and the timeline for an award.
How Do I Decide Who is The Best Firm or Vendor for my Job?
Once you have all of the responses, it is time to decide on who is the best fit for your project and organization. The OR would evaluate all proposals and make a recommendation on a single firm, consultant, or vendor, or recommend a shortlist of companies to move onto the next phase.
If required, each company should bring in the proposed team, including representatives from any sub-consultants that you will be working with through the project. This can be either a formal interview process where the owner asks pre-published questions, or it can be more conversational to get a feel for the team dynamics and how they respond on the spot and with one another.
If required, the OR will schedule with the firms, consultant, or vendor a tour of the completed project(s), office, or showroom. The owner should decide who will be attending the site visit(s). This could be limited to the decision-makers who are responsible for selecting the final architect, contractor, or another consultant/vendor. It can include others outside the decision-makers who have an interest in the project.
The owner, OR, and any other key stakeholders will engage in a review process to evaluate the architect, contractor, or vendor. Often times a decision matrix is filled out individually and then the parties come together to compare results. A decision matrix is a simple list of the items that are used to make the decision. It can be as simple as price and schedule or more complex to include how each firm, consultant, or vendor manages changes, conflict resolution, or who they use as sub-consultants. The OR is then responsible to take all the matrices and compile the data to recommend a final decision.
Once a decision has been made, the OR will contact the awarded team. At this point, the owner and winning architect, contractor, consultant, or vendor will negotiate the contract.
Selecting the right project partner(s) can be complex and overwhelming. An Owner’s Representative can help alleviate this stress and streamline this process for your organization. It is important to keep in mind that the practice of obtaining qualifications or proposals may vary slightly depending on the scope of the project, desired project partner(s), and your organization’s requirements.