In my opinion general contractors (GC) don’t get enough credit for the risk and responsibility they take on every single day.
It is tough enough these days just winning a bid due to all the hoops they have to jump through in the bidding process.
Even winning a prequalification to get the opportunity to bid can be quite an adventure. The costs alone to prepare these large RFPs are becoming unbelievable related to your odds of winning.
This and many other factors contribute to the decisions contractors must make when reviewing every proposal to ensure they have reasonable odds of winning. On the other hand, from the perspective of the owner, the GC is the person who is responsible for the construction of the improvement or new build.
It is the GC who enters into a contract under which it commits to build the improvement for the owner as well as taking on most, if not all, the risk.
In reality, on most construction projects, the GC will subcontract a good deal of the work to be done (in some cases, all of the work) and thus will be primarily responsible as a practical matter for overseeing and managing the execution of the project by others.
Nevertheless, the GC has a personal contractual responsibility for taking reasonable steps to see that the work is done correctly and is done in accordance with the contract to the municipal owner’s satisfaction.
To that end, the GC will work with the architect or other designer to ensure the project is implemented as planned.
The architect and the GC will typically review the plans together before the work begins. If problems arise, the architect will often look to the GC to suggest workable solutions. The contractor will also work with the specialist subcontractors it has engaged to work on the project, and will be the person primarily responsible for co-ordinating the work and activities of each.
The GC is also the person who bears primary responsibility for arranging the issue of necessary permits and the conduct of required inspections of work and will be responsible for carrying out all directed changes or adjustments to the work already done that are ordered as a result of those inspections.
Generally speaking, the contractor has total control over the performance of the contract work and effectively directs and supervises the work so as to ensure conformity with the contract documents.
In particular, the contractor is solely responsible for the construction methods, techniques, sequences and procedures and for co-ordinating the various parts of the work to be done under the contract.
In addition, the contractor is solely responsible for the design, erection, operation, maintenance and removal of all temporary work — this work includes all temporary supports, structures, facilities and services required for the execution of the work to be carried out, but not forming part of the finished facility.
It has been very interesting for me over many years of working directly with GCs, subcontractors and associations helping them submit purchasing documents on RFPs, with prequalifications and reviewing tender documents.
I have always had a great respect for the high level of complex skill sets required to be a GC or subcontractor. Not only do contractors have to be an expert at building structures but now they also need to have a high level of expertise in the legal field and government procurement process and possess communication skills to deal with every aspect of the combined army of people required to complete a project.
As the bidding process continues to become more complex, I applaud the GCs for their incredible ability to adapt to these challenging times.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.