As chairman of a small committee in the east Midlands that, among other things, is concerned with good practice in the construction industry, I would like to bring to your attention a serious problem being faced on a regular basis by main contractors, namely that of absurdly short tender periods for design-and-build enquiries.
I am told that the number of tenders being sought for design-and-build projects is increasing and the time periods to prepare tenders is decreasing. So, for example, a tender in the east Midlands for a building project worth £6m came out recently with a four-week tender period. This short period is not unusual; few employers allow more than five weeks.
In this time, contractors are supposed to convert planning-quality drawings into detailed design drawings and specifications, take off the quantities, prepare tender programmes, send enquiries to subcontractors and suppliers, estimate the total cost, make a judgment about
the level of risk and profit and submit their bids. Four or five weeks for this level of work would be inadequate even if the design team (which is generally chosen by the employer and novated to the contractor by virtue of the terms of the tender conditions) were willing to provide intensive assistance during the tender period. However, it appears that the current trend is for the design team to receive no remuneration until after the contract is placed. Therefore, not surprisingly, the team of designers forced upon the contractor is not prepared to give the level of assistance required.
The committee that I chair considers that such inadequate tender periods are bad practice and are bound to lead to problems and it is hoped that a major publication such as Building will raise the issue. We recognise that the problem of short tender periods is not a new issue but the current situation has become ridiculous and, in our view, needs to be highlighted and addressed. From a personal point of view, I would be interested to know who it is that is advising employers to adopt this procurement route.
Christopher Linnett, Covent Garden, London