Hiring an Expert

How to Write an RFP

While many community repair projects are performed using a professional designer, property management professionals or boards are often in the position of having to prepare Request for Proposal (RFP) documents. In this case, preparation of a well-defined RFP will be beneficial in deciding on selecting a bidder, and more importantly, will result in a less problematic project. This article outlines strategies to assist with this process. These general guidelines are applicable for most situations, such as procuring pool vendors, landscaping work or construction services.

  • DEFINE THE SCOPE: This is the most important aspect of developing any RFP. The bidders need to be able to understand what the project is to include, as well as what it does not include. The RFP should include what the work entails, and where it is to be performed.

Putting the desired project outcome into written form, such that there is little room for interpretation, is often challenging. While unforeseen conditions may arise, the RFP should attempt to define as many of the variables as possible.

Examples of some of these variables include:

  • Optional items available for the installed product (different finishes on a balcony coating).
  • Variable methods of installation (floating vs. glued flooring).
  • Upgrades that may be required to meet current codes (extra insulation in a roof replacement).
  • Work responsibility (contractor vs. owner removal and reinstallation of window treatments during a window replacement project)
  • Site logistics (where to put dumpsters, whether a portable bathroom is required, contractor parking and storage)
  • Safety (how to block off resident access during a balcony repair project)
  • Notification (contractor vs. owner responsibility for community notices)
  • Exclusions (limiting the work to common elements only, excluding resident owned locations)

Example – Pavement Repair  

Soliciting bids to repair a parking lot pavement can result in many variations of scope and pricing, if sufficient information is not provided in the RFP. In this example, for all the bidders to give comparable bids, they all need to bid on the same scope. The RFP would need to define the location, size, and depth of patches. The inclusion of an overlay or sealcoat would also need to be defined, if desired. Correcting of ponding water, if present, should be included. If these items are not included in the RFP, the contractors will each have different ideas of how to repair the pavement. Some may go with a minimal, and less costly, approach. This could mean a bid for partial depth patches, versus full depth patches. This approach may address the failed areas, but the longevity of the patch may be compromised. Other bidders may elect to propose full depth patching. This approach is more expensive, but the patches will last much longer. The result is that deciding on the selection of a contractor will be difficult with varying scopes of repair, and a broad range of prices.

Use of illustrations may also be necessary to convey the locations of areas to be included. Illustrations could be a copy of the property site plan, marked up to show the areas to be addressed.

  • CODES: It is advisable to include statements in the RFP that require the bidders to perform the work in accordance with the current building code. The codes address many items that the author of the RFP may not be aware of, such as: railings at the top of a retaining wall; stair riser/tread dimensions; accessibility; egress; fire protection; wind uplift; etc.
  • DEFINE THE CONTRACT: Use of a standard contract is advisable. The community should determine if they want to use an owner-supplied contract, or an industry standard contract, such as AIA. The contract terms should be supplied to the bidders with the RFP.
  • INSURANCE AND BONDING REQUIREMENTS: The insurance requirements should be defined in the contract. This would include any desired additional insured requirements. Regarding bonding, this typically would include Performance and Payment Bonds. The cost is typically about 2% of the contract amount. Bonding protects the community in the event the contractor defaults on the project or neglects to pay a subcontractor or supplier.

In summary, an RFP with a well-defined scope of work and contractual terms will result in comparable bids, a smoother project, and control of unforeseen cost changes.


By Doug Gardner, P.E.

Doug is the president of Gardner Engineering, located in Columbia, Maryland. His career has focused on condition assessment, failure analysis and restoration design of existing facilities. During his 40 years, Doug has evaluated thousands of buildings and properties in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. He also serves as an expert witness in support of litigation cases involving building and site related issues. Doug is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland.

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