Preparing Concise Repair Documents

Dec. 2, 2010
Obtaining competitive bids for repair projects can be difficult without a clear and concise set of contract documents. Providing bidders with all the necessary information is the key.

Several years ago when I was a repair contractor, I attended a pre-bid meeting at a large, prestigious medical school/research hospital. Engineering consultants had prepared plans for the repair of four of the facilities' parking garages. Approximately 15 contractors showed up at the meeting. As I recall, the plans were rather blank. They showed none of the repair locations, and no quantities were called out.

Each contractor was asked to walk every level of each of the four multi-level garages to determine where the repairs needed to be made, as well as the magnitude of the repair at each location. When asked why the plans showed no repair locations or quantities, the engineers said their scope of services did not include a thorough survey of the garages.

Needless to say, many of the contractors declined to submit bids on the project, and, reportedly, the bids that were submitted were understandably all over the map.

Future "requests for bids" from this engineering consultant and owner were met with extreme skepticism.

Reasons for Repair
At some point during the lifespan of every structure, significant repairs are necessary. Sealants, coatings, and other waterproofing materials deteriorate with age and exposure to the elements. Concrete shrinks, creeps, and, more often than not, cracks. Protective elements over steel materials can deteriorate over time, allowing the onset of corrosion. A diligent regimen of regular maintenance often postpones the need for more extensive repairs. But when the time finally arrives for you to take the next step, ensure that you have an organized, legible, and constructible set of repair drawings and specifications.

Most often, repairs are deemed necessary because they have been identified during an assessment of the structure or because of the failure (or near failure) of a building component. If neither has occurred, a comprehensive condition assessment by a qualified consultant is an excellent first step in determining what deficiencies exist.

The Goals for Good Repair Documents

You want your building’s leak problems solved – you want the cracks to go away, you want the debris to stop falling on parked cars. You want your buildings to be fixed – all with the least amount of disruption, noise, dust, hassle, and cost, and in the least time possible. Though many of these desires seem contradictory, the goals in preparing a concise set of repair documents should be:

  • Clearly define the scope of the repairs. What, specifically, needs to be repaired? It is helpful to have a repair detail for each type of repair required on the project. Group similar types of repair together, such as structural repairs to concrete elements, cosmetic repairs, joint details, waterproofing repairs, etc.

    Where are the repairs located? Bidders will need to know how easy (or difficult) it is to access each location where a repair is required. Typically, horizontal repairs to concrete are easier to execute compared to vertical or overhead locations that may involve elevated work platforms and interference from mechanical, electrical, or plumbing system components.
  • When must the repairs be completed? Noisy or dusty operations, or repairs at major entrances/exits to buildings or parking structures, may have to be performed after normal business hours to minimize operational disruptions. Likewise, work may have to be limited to only portions of the facility at any given time, in order to maintain building operations.
  • Allow flexibility to stay within budgetary constraints. The inclusion of clearly defined alternate bid items will allow you to increase or decrease the overall scope of the repair work based upon the available funds. Critical items in need of immediate repair should always be included in the base bid, while items that you want to have included, but may not have the funding for, can be listed as alternates.
  • Provide simple, cost-effective solutions that solve the root cause of the deterioration, repair the damage that has resulted, and minimize the impact on the building’s on-going operations.

    If a spalled section of concrete is the result of insufficient concrete cover over an embedded reinforcing bar, repairing the spall with the same amount of cover is not going to solve the cause of the problem, nor will it provide a long-term, durable repair. In some cases, executing the proper repair involves repairing the condition that caused the
    problem, and not simply replacing "in-kind."
  • Provide bidders with all of the information necessary to furnish a fair and equitable price. Forcing bidders to guess at anything in the preparation of a bid for repair work only increases the chances for greater disparity in bid prices. Establishing quantities is one of the most important variables in the bid process and should not be left to guesswork.

Quantities for repair items that can easily be taken off from a set of plans (such as linear feet of expansion joint to be removed and replaced, or a parking deck to be coated with a traffic membrane) may not need to be addressed on the bid form. However, items that are more subjective, such as the quantity of concrete repair material to be installed (separated by placement location or method), or the number of linear feet of crack to be pressure injected with epoxy, should always be specified on the bid form, with a corresponding request for a unit price. This approach provides a level playing field for all bidders and an equitable contractual arrangement between you and your repair contractor.

Condition assessments normally involve an estimation of the severity of the deterioration of a building component and a prioritization for its repair. Repair of the most severely deteriorated elements that pose an immediate threat to the integrity of the building are grouped together and labeled as "immediate" repairs. Less severe deficiencies that, if left unrepaired for a number of years, could result in future damage to the structure or a breach in the building envelope, are grouped together with the recommendation that they be repaired within the next "X" number of years.

Opinions of probable construction cost furnished by the consultant in the assessment report provide the client with a general order of magnitude for the anticipated repairs. Prudent owners and property managers utilize this valuable information during the process of planning their annual budgets.

Armed with the necessary information provided by the comprehensive condition assessment report, you should acknowledge the need for repairs, and, having planned accordingly, should proceed expeditiously to the next step – the preparation of repair documents.

Factors to Consider
1) Base Bid vs. Alternative Bid. Rare is the occasion when there is sufficient funding to repair everything that is deficient in a condition assessment report.

Priorities have to be set and compromises made. Hopefully, the available funding is adequate to perform the repairs deemed the highest priority and in need of immediate attention.

These items should establish the scope of work for the base bid – the part of the project that addresses the most severely deteriorated elements. It is critical to identify what needs to be repaired, where the repairs are needed, how to go about repairing the deficiencies, and when the repairs can be performed. If work in certain areas must be performed in pieces to maintain building operations, the phasing of the work should be clearly defined.

Alternate bid items, either additive or deductive, can be included to provide flexibility to the client to stay within budgetary constraints. Typically, alternate bid items consist of lower priority repairs that could be performed if adequate funding is available. The scope of work for each alternate must be clearly defined as well.

2) Eliminate Variables.
During the preparation of the repair documents, give consideration to all aspects of the needed repairs. Ask what trades will be involved and the magnitude of work required by each trade. Bidders on the project will need to know the "what," "where," and "when" aspects of the project in order to formulate a plan on "how" they will organize and perform their portion of the work. Ideally, the repair documents answer all of the bidders' questions, provide a clear understanding of the work they will perform, and identify how their performance will impact (and be impacted by) other trades.

For instance, the contractor responsible for sealing joints needs to know that concrete has to be repaired along the edges of the joints before his work can proceed, and the mechanical contractor hanging the ductwork needs to know that the repair work on the concrete structure he will hang his ductwork from has to be completed first.

The most important aspect in all of these questions is the magnitude of the repairs. Because unit cost X quantity = total cost for each bid item, the elimination of the "quantity" variable in this equation levels the playing field for all bidders on a project. Asking 10 contractors to determine quantities on a repair will produce 10 different quantities and a much wider range in the overall bids.

On large projects, asking 10 contractors to walk a 10-story parking garage or a 65,000 seat stadium to determine repair quantities is nothing short of ludicrous. For unit price repair projects where quantities are estimated and provided by the repair consultant, the final cost of a project will not be known until the project is complete.

However, the inclusion of a contingency fund in the project budget will provide a buffer between the final project cost and the budgeted amount. Quantities of repair materials are monitored and tracked during construction, normally by the repair consultant. Utilizing an experienced repair consultant will aid in the accurate estimation of the repair quantities and the establishment of a reasonable contingency fund.

You can take solace in knowing that you will only be paying for the repairs that are put in place, while contractors are assured that they will be able to invoice for the installed quantities of repair materials. This form of repair contract is a win-win situation for you and your contractor and can help to foster the creation of a beneficial partnership between both parties.

3) Include Limitations.
Repair documents should specify the results the contractor must achieve, such as a certain concrete surface profile or a saturated surface dry condition prior to application of repair materials. For the most part, the method in which the requirement is achieved (the way the work is performed) is the prerogative of the contractor. However, the repair documents may include requirements that limit, or even disallow, certain means, methods, and techniques. Removal of concrete may be limited to the use of 15-pound chipping hammers to prevent microfracturing of the concrete substrate. Etching of concrete surfaces to obtain a concrete surface profile may require the use of mechanical means only and not permit the use of acid-etching.

The repair documents may require the use of shoring in some areas during the removal of large or significant portions of a structural system. Repair sequencing is often used to spell out the steps the contractor must take in making certain types of repairs where structural integrity could be compromised. Getting a contractor's opinion during the preparation of the repair documents may provide valuable insight regarding how they might approach a project. Knowing the contractors in your area who are capable of executing high-quality repairs is an important aspect in providing top-notch consulting services.

4) Time Constraints.
Most construction contracts specify a length of time for execution of the work. On some projects, this time is specified by the owner or property manager and is based upon an anticipated date when the building or structure must be put into service. Limited construction times may require that work be performed on multiple shifts, or even continuously, to accomplish the required tasks. Requirements of this nature need to be clearly defined in the repair documents.

On other projects, bidders are asked to provide the number of days they will need to complete the scope of work shown in the contract documents on the bid form. The contract documents should state if this information will be used as part of the selection criteria.

5) Project Uniqueness and Constraints.
Contract documents for repair projects must address the unique existing conditions and constraints of each site. If the structure is to remain in use during the repairs, will protection for people, vehicles, or adjacent elements be necessary? Will the contractor need to control dust or noise during construction? What hours and days of the week may the contractor perform the repair work? Are there specific routes the contractor will need to use to access the areas to be repaired? If there are obstructions in or around the areas to be repaired, must the contractor work around the obstructions or must he remove and replace the obstructions? Will public sidewalks and/or streets need to be closed to perform the work?

All items like these should be discussed during the design phase and addressed by plans, notes, and details on the drawings, or in the alteration project procedures section of the specifications.

6) Choose the Right Contractor.
Properly executing repair work is quite different from new construction. In my experience, the majority of new construction contractors do not know the intricacies and subtleties involved in the repair of damaged or deteriorated building components. For repair work in the private sector, repair consultants may offer to provide their client with a list of contractors who have experience in successfully completing projects similar in scope to their project. For publicly-funded projects, if permitted by local laws, requesting "Competitive Sealed Proposals" will allow the qualifications of bidder to be considered in the selection process, in addition to the price provided.

As with any construction project, a collaborative, team effort is required for the successful completion of a project. The owner must be fully committed to the project and the consultants must clearly identify the scope of work to be accomplished. This provides bidding contractors with a fair and equitable opportunity to join the project team. B

Mark D. LeMay, AIA, LEED AP is an Associate and Senior Project Manager of JQ Fort Worth. He can be contacted at ([email protected]).

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Buildings, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Building Better Schools

Download this digital resource to better understand the challenges and opportunities in designing and operating educational facilities for safety, sustainability, and performance...

Tips to Keep Facility Management on Track

How do you plan to fill the knowledge gap as seasoned facility managers retire or leave for new opportunities? Learn about the latest strategies including FM tech innovations ...

The Beauty & Benefits of Biophilic Design in the Built Environment

Biophilic design is a hot trend in design, but what is it and how can building professionals incorporate these strategies for the benefits of occupants? This eHandbook offers ...

The Benefits of Migrating from Analog to DMR Two-Way Radios

Are you still using analog two-way radios? Download this white paper and discover the simple and cost-effective migration path to digital DMR radios that deliver improved audio...