Is your Tender Specification ‘specific, certain and enforceable’?

The need for any Tender Specification to be ‘specific, certain and enforceable’ should remain at the forefront of all infrastructure project planning, particularly in the public sector. By creating clear project objectives, asset owners can fairly compare the available solutions to ensure that the resulting infrastructure is fit for purpose and able to support their communities for generations to come.

Clear expectations set the standard

The specification is one of the most critical documents within a tender – it provides a contractor with a sound description of what is required and allows the development of a bespoke solution that will meet their client’s needs in the most efficient manner. As such, it is vital that Tender Specifications are drafted by a skilled person who has knowledge of that subject matter and can stipulate exactly what’s needed.

The terms, ‘specific, certain and enforceable’ eliminate any ambiguity outlined in the asset owner’s requirements. For councils managing their assets in a construction environment, specifications can range from establishing the site, determining the quality of systems and products or outlining the performance criteria of the asset.

In essence, a ‘specific, certain and enforceable’ Tender Specification serves as the backbone of an entire project.

By being concise and containing all pertinent information, it saves the client, contractor and supplier an immense amount of time and money by providing clarity to the myriad of on-site construction questions that arise. Moreover, it enables the design and project to develop systems that improve efficiency, provide quality assurance and ensure consistency throughout the project.

Results speak for themselves

Using sewer renewal contracts as an illustrative example, there are a number of restoration methods on the market; from pipe bursting, to UV cured-in-place-pipe to spiral-wound solutions.

Most councils will have had experience renewing their sewer mains using a variety of methods, likely with mixed results. As is often the case, some solutions will meet or exceeded expectations, while others may not live up to the suppliers’ claims.

However, where a sewer renewal method has failed to perform as expected, the cause can often be traced to either a flawed Tender Specification or a failure to enforce the specification in the delivery of the works.

Be specific with design specs

Bringing over 25 years’ experience in working with councils to identify optimal water infrastructure solutions, Pre-Contracts Manager from leading water infrastructure company, Interflow, John Weaver, highlights that specifying design is not easy, but crucially important.

“Whether you’re looking to renew your water network through pipe bursting or structural lining, there is a need to specify exactly what your expectations for the project’s delivery are,” he said.

“The more detailed you can be within the design specification, the easier it will be for tenderers to demonstrate the long-term functional performance of their proposed solution and the community benefits.”

A liner design specification, for example, needs to include whether the liner is expected to support existing loads, the types of loads it will be supporting, or the expected level of support, if any, from the host pipe. It also needs to specify the acceptable liner design method.

In each case, the more information an asset owner can provide about the load values and required product and design standards, the easier it will be for the evaluator to identify the best solution.

Looking at the bigger picture

Design is only one component of an infrastructure project. Quite often, other factors such as community, safety and environment are also prime considerations.

Minimising disruption to the community, for example, is a major priority for councils, so writing a Tender Specification that is ‘specific, certain and enforceable’ in this area is critical.

John explains how asset owners can make their expectations clear regarding how the contractor manages the community before, during and after the works.

“Experience has shown that prescribing ‘step by step’ what a tenderer must do to manage the community, including complaints, is essential to a successful sewer renewal contract,” he explained.

“This specificity must be extended to the safety and environmental expectations, to ensure the community, and worksite employees, are kept safe, and that the surrounding natural and built environments remain protected.”

Unlike community, it can be difficult to prescribe how the tenderer must manage safety and environment because of the different conditions on different sites.

To overcome this, the Tender Specification should require the tenderer to identify all safety and environmental risks they foresee before, during and after the works and how they propose to manage those risks.

Getting the most from public spending

A key takeaway for any council is ensuring that the Tender Specification is written so that it’s ‘specific, certain and enforceable’. This will increase the value for money on their public spending and improve the quality of public services for their communities.

“If you find a sentence within your specification to be ambiguous, ask yourself what additional words, prescription or reference to standards can be included to enhance this specification,” John emphasised.

“By challenging yourself to think this way, you will give yourself the best chance of ensuring that the project objectives are met, and the long-term interests of the community are protected.”

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