When we last spent time with Paul Brydges, owner of Brydges Landscape Architecture Inc, the topic of discussion focused on budget, and was part two of our four-part series “Ask the Expert”.
As we enter “Part Three: The Tendering Process”, Paul teaches us that both timing and economics are key essential outcomes when making some crucial decisions.
“The beauty of working with a landscape designer is that they act as a support contact throughout the entire project,” explains Paul. This is where Paul and his team put it best, “We always work WITH the people involved, never against, so that everyone is invested in the end result, and the vision remains constant.”
When the tendering process begins, Paul has some key advice.
When working with your designer, they should have several craftsman, trades, and teams that they use on an ongoing basis, and can confidently recommend obtaining quotes from these contacts. The great thing about using one of these networks is that the relationship has been one that’s been successful, and more than likely, ongoing in nature.
Should the homeowner have personal contacts of their own, Paul suggests that they use someone to provide a quote based on similar projects. For example, “Use a contractor that has completed a project like the one you’re looking to have done. If your contractor is great at finishing bathrooms, but has never built a home from the ground up, then maybe the fit is not quite right.”
The rule of thumb these days in the tendering process is to get “two comparable quotes” from the contractors. This is a must for the designer and client to agree upon at the beginning of the tender process. Anything more than two can cause issues from both a timing perspective, and also overwhelm the process. “When a contractor completes a quote on a straightforward landscape, pool, and small cabana design, they typically spend up to 20 hours completing the quote. If a client obtains multiple quotes from several contractors, this could delay the full scope of the project for several weeks waiting for pricing. Obtaining two quotes, from two reputable contractors, can advance the project, and eliminate unnecessary costs.”
The contractors should be presenting their own cost proposal to the client, along with the designer, in person. This gives the client a good sense of the type of person they’re dealing with. The client gets to know how flexible the individual is, what it’s going to be like working with them on a daily basis, and how easy, or not, it may be to communicate and build a relationship. The designer can help bridge this relationship, and make the process so much easier.
Quotes should be simple, but easy to understand; more expensive doesn’t translate to better. Cheaper doesn’t translate to worse. The designer will have a good understanding about the quality of work the team produces, from past projects.
If a contractor can come in to price a project like the backyard pool design we mentioned above, the process from start to finish will more than likely take about 3 weeks. Buyer beware when a contractor can claim to turn around this process in a few days. “A fast turnaround for this process can indicate that the contractor has glossed over, or provided generic numbers, that could lead to additional costs and an unhappy end result.”
The tendering process is a spot in the overall project scope that can bottleneck timing. This is why it’s so important to understand these key elements, or it can eat up a lot of time and money.
There are many variables when it comes to landscape projects, including weather, and the fact that we are at a crucial time with there being a shortage of skilled trades. A quick, informed decision can be the reason your project gets scheduled in a timely manner, instead of having to be scheduled weeks or months out.
Once both the price and contractor are agreed upon, Paul then suggests that the client “hand the reins” over to the contractor. With the designer still being in a crucial support role, the client can be assured through the contractor that the project will run as smooth as possible.
A few final suggestions from Paul regarding the tendering process;
“More than likely the contractor will ask the client to put down a deposit. If you’ve accomplished the tendering process correctly, then all should go smoothly. However, life happens, and the deposit should be refundable up to a certain point. Good contractors, the ones who’ve built a good relationship with the client, will be prepared should things like a job transfer or a life-altering situation arise, and will work with the client to alter the project as may be required.”
“Lastly, when a contractor is presenting the quote to the client, they should also be presenting pictures and information of at least 2-3 comparable projects upon which they have worked with references included. This way, the client can feel confident in the finished product.
The tendering process should not be seen as difficult or unnecessary. When executed properly, it will help ensure that through some simple due diligence, the client has done all they can in terms of finding the right contractor for the job, at the right price.
Written By: Kelli M. Maddocks