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Ecm Estimating Essentials 0420 Pr

Making the Most of Your Pre-Bid Meeting and Site Visit

April 20, 2020
Although estimators can’t eliminate risks, those who follow these best practices can greatly reduce them.

Let’s continue our series on estimating best practices with our philosophy of estimate preparation and understand the purpose of the pre-bid meeting and site visit. The February 2020 “Estimating Essentials” article discussed the steps to properly understand the contract documents for accurate estimate preparation.

The pre-bid meeting and the site visit are two separate steps in bid preparation. Pre-bid meetings sometimes are not held at the project location. The purpose of a pre-bid meeting is to clarify any concerns bidders may have with the solicitation documents, scope of work, and other details. This is an opportunity to meet with the owner’s representatives, architects, and consulting engineers. The site visit typically follows the pre-bid meeting.

It’s always best to personally visit a project site that you are estimating, especially if the project is a renovation of an existing facility. Use your time at the site wisely. It is the responsibility of the estimator to gather the necessary information to bid the project reliably. The site visit is one of the best and easiest ways to mitigate risks, because some site conditions can only be known and understood by seeing them in person.

Site visit preparation

Review the specifications for the site visit requirements. Sometimes, a site visit is mandatory. For example, some correctional facilities require a 24-hr pre-registration for attendees. Make plans to leave behind any personal possessions that would be prohibited in this type of facility. Even if you are bidding a new building — and you are visiting an empty field — it is good to attend so you can know who your competition might be and meet potential subcontractors. Make sure you have plenty of business cards on hand.

Print the electrical drawings on 11 in. × 17 in. paper, as this will make handling the drawings much easier than with full-sized documents. Highlight items for review on your drawings, and prepare a list of questions to ask. In addition, make sure your camera and cell phone are fully charged. Consider whether you need to invite your subcontractors so they can assess their work. If so, provide them with all necessary documents prior to the meeting. This is important if the subcontract work is a major portion of the total project cost. Sometimes, the civil work can be more than 50% of the total.

The pre-bid meeting

Arrive a minimum of 15 min. before the pre-bid meeting begins. Make sure you bring all required personal protective equipment (PPE) you might need to access the site. Sign the sign-in sheet.

Most architects will read all the key points of the contract documents and highlight important phasing and coordination information. Identify to whom requests for information (RFIs) are directed if the specifications do not indicate. Inquire about the RFI deadline date and time. Request that a copy of the attendance record be issued via an addendum. Always ask for business cards from the key people running the pre-bid meeting. In the event you may need to return, ask for a contact name to arrange a second site visit. Oftentimes in the busyness of contracting, you are not always privileged to review the documents before the meeting.

The site tour

As noted earlier, it’s vital that you see the project firsthand — especially if the project involves the renovation of an existing facility. Make plans for a second visit, if necessary. With the project drawings and camera in hand, make note of the following as you walk the site:

Site conditions

1. Access to the site and work areas — look for low overpasses, small bridges, as well as tonnage limits of roadways and bridges.

2. Utility connection points.

3. Temporary power source location and distance to site.

4. Trenching difficulty and access — inspect areas such as existing parking lots, railroad tracks, and around fuel tanks where UG conduits will need to be installed.

5. Cutting and patching of asphalt areas, if applicable

6. Note the distance to site when mileage reimbursements are required.

7. Overhead clearances.

Inside facility

1. Measure doorway widths to be sure they are wide enough for equipment mobilization.

2. Identify roof access point, if required.

3. Note elevator access points.

4. Survey for new feeder routing.

5. Check items noted for demolition, especially ones that might contain hazardous materials, such as PCB contaminated ballast and transformers, and fluorescent lamps.

6. Review accessibility and rigging requirements for equipment to be installed.

7. Document manufacturers of existing equipment to be modified.

     a. Switchboard/panelboards — style, voltages, AIC ratings, etc.

     b. Fire alarm equipment — you may need to contact a local office.

     c. Security equipment.

     d. Sound/PA equipment.

8. Verify crawl space accessibility.

Pictures should be taken of items that need to be reviewed with the chief estimator or sent to subcontractors.

There are several software programs that are excellent for loading project drawings on your tablet or computer. These programs allow you to make notes, take pictures, and highlight portions of the drawings for the chief estimator’s review.

In summary

Knowledge is power — the more you know about a project you are bidding, the better prepared you’ll be to create a solid estimate. Every estimator should take advantage of attending the pre-bid meeting and touring the job site.           

Kiper is an independent electrical estimating trainer and consultant based in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

Don Kiper | Independent Electrical Estimating Consultant

With more than 35 years of experience as a construction electrician, industrial maintenance electrician, foreman, estimator, estimating manager, and project manager, Don has used what he learned to lead in the implementation of estimating software with three electrical contractors where he has worked. Don has 17 years of experience in the construction field and 18 years of office experience and he has personally estimated over $700 million dollars in electrical projects. 

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