One of the typical challenges that design professionals face is responding to Requests For Proposals or Requests For Qualifications for renovation projects. These kinds of documents come from all kinds of potential client types—nonprofit agencies, developers, government and institutional agencies. Responding to such requests for renovation projects poses some unique challenges, so it’s good to approach each of these packages with a consistent strategy.
The first thing you want to do is determine whether the document is an RFP or an RFQ. The key difference in these documents is that the request for proposal generally is soliciting a fee proposal as its primary basis for selection; a request for qualifications is generally requesting your résumé and credentials specific to the proposed project at hand.
The second key piece of information that’s important to know is the due date. Do you have enough time to prepare your response to this request? This includes soliciting and reviewing information or proposals from sub-consultants, researching and writing any necessary narratives, word processing, printing, and binding and delivering the finished product to the potential client.
Is there a pre-proposal conference and is it mandatory or voluntary? If there is a mandatory conference you want to make sure to get your name and company listed on the sign-in sheet so the requesting entity has a record of the fact that you attended the meeting. One of the good things about a mandatory conference is that the client usually publishes the list of participants. With this information you learn two things: 1) who your competition is, and 2) you can get a preliminary take on various sub-consultants who are also interested in the project
Probably the most important aspect of the request for proposal is the scope of services. What exactly is the client looking for from the respondent? Is the potential client looking for a study? Studies generally consist of preparing concepts and the corresponding probable cost of those concepts. Alternatively, is the client looking for full design and construction documentation? If so, are the client a public agency looking for bidding where public advertisements are often required? If bidding is required in a private client situation it may be a simpler task where two or three bids can be received and negotiated privately.
In today’s renovation and retrofit market, it is popular to do projects on a design/build basis. This methodology entails a design professional teaming with a construction entity to deliver “one-stop shopping”. This strategy allows the client to know all their costs upfront during the bidding process. If so, the design entity usually would need to find a construction entity with which to partner.
Does the desired scope of work require the planning professional to retain consulting engineering or other specialty consultants? In today’s design marketplace, specialty consultants can run the gamut from electrical engineering, mechanical, structural engineering, civil engineering, interior design, information technology, or even sustainable building certification such as LEED Certification.
Another important element of responding to an RFP is being cognizant of any special contractual requirements. Older buildings are often owned by government or institutional entities and the projects are often receiving some sort of public funding. Public funding brings its own set of requirements, such as competitive bidding for construction of the work, compliance with federal regulations such as Equal Employment Opportunity, Department of Labor regulations and wage rates, and Environmental Protection Agency requirements. The National Park Service has requirements that include the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Restoration of Historic Buildings.
Most importantly, your response needs to deal with the selection criteria that the potential client is using to select the design professional. These criteria often include things, such as the cost of your services and your portfolio of previous projects. The RFP may also require documentation regarding the experience of you and your staff and what kind of specific credentials may qualify you to work on this particular renovation project. Other criteria will likely include how quickly can you can complete the services or how soon your team can get a bid set out on the street for bidding. If this potential client is looking for a highly innovative solution, you may need to document your level of design innovation and creativity as evidenced by other projects. Usually, it’s a combination of all these items and the challenge is to discern which are key priorities for the potential client in selecting the successful firm for this project.
Last, but certainly not least, are the specifics regarding the delivery of your qualifications or proposal package to the potential client. Will the potential client accept electronic files, or does your package need to be hand delivered? If it’s a hard copy, how many copies do they want? If hard-copy deliveries are required, have you allowed time in your schedule for regular mail, or must you use FedEx, UPS or a courier service? All these are important decisions that shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Given our busy schedules, design professionals may find it hard to make allowances for all these things.
Once you have the package organized and printed, you’ll need to proofread it at least twice to make sure you pick up any typos or erroneous references to language that may or may not pertain to the client’s needs. After the package is put together, make sure it’s bound professionally and send it off to the client using the agreed delivery method.
Remember, a famous football coach once said, “The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” Prepare well and there will be no regrets that you and your team did not put your best foot forward.