As the age-old saying goes, “Ask 10 Engineers for a solution to a problem and you’ll get 10 different answers.” However, increasing the amount of data and detail available for analysis will often guide evaluations from different people to similar conclusions. The takeaways here are data collection and data reporting. You want to ensure your geotechnical data is collected and reported to the same (high) standard by each of your Bidders, so that you get clear reliable, usable data in the end.
Weed out mediocrity by communicating clear and high standards.
Weed out mediocrity by communicating clear and high standards. Field data collection and reporting is not standard in the industry nor is it standard between competing firms, thus you want to minimize assumptions made by Bidders. By communicating what specific information must be included in the geotechnical report, you are effectively leveling the playing field.
For example, let’s consider Firm A, B, and C in regard to the following request within your RFP:
“Engineer must obtain coordinates for each boring drilled.”
- Firm A’s standard practice is to approximate boring coordinates from field measurements. – A Mediocre Practice
- Firm B’s standard practice is to use a GPS enabled phone to obtain boring coordinates. – A Good Practice
- Firm C’s standard practice is to always use GPS capable of sub-meter accuracy to obtain boring coordinates. – An Excellent Practice
Because this requirement is so broad in its wording, all firms can fulfill this request without going into much detail about how they will fulfill the request. Because Firms A and B may not own an accurate GPS, they could potentially come in with a lower cost than Firm C. However, Firm C is providing the highest quality of service.
Let’s take a look at the same request with more specific details included:
“Engineer must obtain coordinates for each boring drilled using GPS capable of sub-meter accuracy.”
With this request, Firm C is the only one who performs this service as standard practice. Firms A and B need to include time and fees to specifically comply with this request.
In the first instance, Firm C could have potentially been priced out of the bid simply because of its capabilities, while in the second instance, Firm C was the only firm standing because of its capabilities. This is an example of how the detail and wording of your RFP can play a significant role in your Bidders’ responses. Generalizing requests, with little to no detail, can lead to an “apples to oranges” comparison.
Ask for sample test reports, boring logs, and/or other data.
Not all work is created equal. Unlike other disciplines within civil engineering, a geotechnical engineering deliverable typically comes in the form of a report, not drawings. In simple terms, a geotechnical report consists of data and interpretations of data.
If you’re not already doing so, we suggest requesting samples of the following within your RFP:
- Laboratory test reports
- A completed boring location plan and boring logs
Specify that these samples come from a project completed within the last 3 months. Information that may be sensitive like the project name or Client may be redacted.
Once you receive these samples, it’s important to look for the following, among many other elements:
- Who is reporting most of the data?
- Are the axes of any graphs labeled?
- Are the soil descriptions on a boring log clear and concise?
- Are the origins of the strata (fill, residual, PWR, etc.) labeled on a boring log?
These items are important determinants in identifying quality geotechnical services. Without seeing samples of your Bidders’ boring logs and reports up front, you could be signing yourself up for mediocre geotechnical work after the contract has already been signed.
Without seeing samples of your Bidders’ boring logs and reports up front, you could be signing yourself up for mediocre geotechnical work.
Require routine progress updates.
This should be standard practice, but it would not hurt to include verbiage in your RFP laying out your expectations in relation to communication and project progress. Your geotechnical firm should be providing updates weekly and/or after specific milestones, which may include:
- Drilling start date.
- Drilling completion date.
- Completion of laboratory testing.
- One week prior to the report due date.
Don’t keep yourself in the dark!
On the next installment of this series, we’ll be talking about the importance of transparency within your budget and schedule.
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Download a PDF copy of The Geotechnical RFP in it’s entirety.