Pre-selection, pre-approval, and pre-purchase of equipment and materials are three procurement methods that, when used correctly, can shorten construction schedules, control costs, ensure quality, and reduce the risks of conflicts and claims during construction.
Each approach needs to be carefully administered within specific exceptions to California’s Public Contract Code governing competitive bidding practices for public agencies, allowing owners more definitive material selections than the conventional “or equal” or performance specification process.
Pre-procurement requires that construction bidding and contract documents be structured differently than for a conventional design-bid-build project. Because the owner assumes responsibility for pricing of pre-selected items, it is imperative that the engineer and owner negotiate a firm, guaranteed price with the pre-selected manufacturers prior to public bidding.
Bid documents must convey to the construction contractor the purchase “terms and conditions” on which the negotiated pricing is based. In the case of pre-purchased items, the transfer of responsibility for “owner-furnished” materials must be clearly defined. Thorough specifications and special conditions will reduce potential issues arising during construction between parties.
Pre-procurement methods were used successfully on three recent wastewater projects:
Encina Wastewater Authority hired Dudek to rehabilitate four 105-foot diameter secondary clarifiers at its 45 million gallons daily (mg) wastewater treatment plant in Carlsbad.
Pre-selecting the clarifier mechanisms was necessary to match desired features of existing clarifiers while controlling costs and schedule in construction. Dudek engineers performed thorough site investigations, developed detailed technical specifications, and administered contract negotiations with the preferred equipment manufacturer.
Bid documents clearly defined negotiated terms and conditions, including delivery schedule and warranties. During construction, Dudek engineers worked with the manufacturer and installing contractor to verify field conditions, approve shop drawings, commission the clarifier system, and exercise warranty calls.
Improving the City of Guadalupe’s 0.96-mgd treatment plant faced an almost insurmountable short delivery schedule stipulated by the funding agency that placed the $4.5 million grant in jeopardy.
A schedule review showed the construction schedule could be reduced from twelve to eight months by pre-procuring three major equipment packages concurrent with completing final design.
After soliciting competitive proposals from previously qualified equipment manufacturers, Dudek administered selection of the lowest cost, responsive equipment package(s). The city issued deposits to authorize the manufacturers to prepare shop drawings, which allowed the construction bid documents to include pre-approved submittals. The successful construction bidder issued a purchase order and released the equipment for manufacture immediately upon receiving the Notice to Proceed – effectively shaving at least three months off the construction schedule.
On-site construction to improve a lift station on the City of Laguna Beach’s popular Main Beach was restricted to the nine-month tourist off-season. In consultation with city staff, Dudek engineers initiated a pre-selection process to choose a packaged lift station manufacturer during the preliminary design phase.
The engineers worked closely with the manufacturer to develop a custom design addressing project constraints such as limited construction access and construction period, groundwater impacts, and the city’s design standards and preferences.
Pre-purchase of the lift station package was negotiated to ensure materials were delivered to the site prior to start of construction. Careful coordination was required between the pre-purchased equipment package and the construction bid documents. Special conditions were incorporated to define the transfer of responsibility for pre-purchased items from the owner to the contractor during construction.