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What is a Pre-Bid Conference, and How Can You Prepare?

June 15th, 2022 | 4 min. read

What is a Pre-Bid Conference, and How Can You Prepare?

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Whether you represent a public school, university, or municipality, you may need to go through a bidding process to secure a contractor. While public bidding promotes competition, it also adds a layer of complexity to a building project. You and your architect may need to check some extra boxes to ensure the process runs smoothly.  

Hosting a pre-bid conference is one box we recommend you check. Pre-bid conferences allow you and your architect to review the project’s requirements and set expectations with contractors. They help get everyone on the same page, increasing the likelihood of accurate bids. 

In this article, we will discuss the typical procedure for a pre-bid conference and the types of requirements your architect will discuss with contractors. After reading, you will know what to expect and how you can prepare.  

What is a Pre-Bid Conference? 

Public bidding can get complicated. Contractors need a thorough understanding of the project to provide an accurate bid, and depending on state laws, contractors may need to abide by many regulations to submit bids properly.  

A pre-bid conference is an opportunity to get set expectations and make sure contractors understand the project and bid procedure. Although hosting a conference is not required, it leads to a smoother bidding process.  

Typically, these conferences occur on site. In-person meetings give contractors a chance to tour the building site and better understand the work. You can also host a virtual conference or opt for a hybrid model.  

Be sure to talk to your architect about your preference so they can plan accordingly.  

What Occurs at a Pre-Bid Conference?  

At the conference, your architect will discuss the project with the contractors and subcontractors in attendance. They will review the contract documents, outline code requirements, and explain the schedule.  

They will also review any requirements that may impact the contractor’s bid. For example, some projects include “Buy America” clauses that specify the use of US-made products. Other projects, especially those that receive federal funding, may have wage requirements.  

Additionally, your architect will set expectations for bid day by explaining:  

  1. The date and time  
  2. Location  
  3. Envelope separation requirements  

Outlining these expectations decreases the likelihood of contractors submitting bids incorrectly and disqualifying.  

As your architect reviews requirements and expectations, contractors and subcontractors are free to ask questions. Your architect will record all questions and answers and include them in the contract documents as addenda. This creates a level playing field, ensuring everyone has the same information when submitting bids. 

Is the Pre-Bid Conference Mandatory?  

Contractors are not required to attend the pre-bid conference. Anyone can submit a bid, even if they are not in attendance. 

In some cases, the building owner can make the conference mandatory, meaning only contractors in attendance can submit bids. Generally, we do not recommend mandatory conferences as they decrease competition. If you consider this route, talk to your architect about the pros and cons.  

How Can You Prepare?  

Although your architect will do most of the talking, be prepared to discuss your expectations and answer contractors’ questions.  

Contractors may have questions related to parking and staging at the building site. If the site does not have the space for these activities, contractors may need to factor transportation costs into their bid. Other contractors may have questions about evening and weekend hours. 

You should also discuss any requirements specific to your organization. For example, public schools often require background checks for anyone working on school grounds. Some government organizations have other security-related requirements.  

Outlining these expectations in the pre-bid conference increases the likelihood of a smooth construction process.  

What Are Your Next Steps?  

A pre-bid conference is a crucial component of any public bidding project. Meeting with the contractors before bidding allows you to set expectations and review the project’s requirements, leading to more accurate bids.  

If you plan to use a design-bid-build project delivery method, discuss the pre-bid conference with your architect. They can help you plan the event and prepare for any questions contractors may have. 

After bidding is complete, you will start the construction process. Prepare by reading about the relationship between you, your architect, and the contractor.