We can always tell when an aquatics operator was not involved in the
materials we get requesting our services.
Typically, there’s barely a page describing the project,
and about 10 pages on legal and fee requirements. When that
happens, there are two problems: First, focusing too much on fees
instead of qualifications makes it difficult to compare apples to
apples. Second, without a good understanding of the project on the
design/architectural end, you’re likely to lose control of
the overall process and the final facility is likely to suffer.
To make matters worse, such projects often cost more than
expected because the two parties didn’t have a clear
understanding of the scope of the work. The result is a renovation
or new facility that does not match the original vision and is less
likely to meet the needs of patrons. In this economic climate,
those kinds of mistakes threaten the long-term viability of the
facility — and the aquatic operator’s job.
That’s why it’s crucial for operators to insert
themselves into renovations or new construction — and
understand how to use those tools to get the best team. Tools
include letters of interest, requests for qualifications (RFQ),
requests for proposals (RFP), and the interview process.
Maximizing interest can start with a letter of interest to
selected organizations. This letter will help in determining their
level of interest; you can also request a statement of interest
from them that will further that determination. The letter’s
aim is to stimulate interest in the project.
|SELECTION & SCORING CRITERIA EXAMPLE|
- Ability to provide service
- Qualifications and availability
- History of successful performance
Next, it’s time to move forward with a RFQ or RFP. One of
the primary purposes of both is to accurately describe the project
and identify what information is needed to select the appropriate
designers and builders.
Interested parties need to fully understand the breadth and
depth of the project, which allows them to determine the skill sets
needed by their teams. Items traditionally provided in the RFQ and
RFP include the project description, location, pre-determined
budgets, schedules and owner representative contact information.
Items that owners request typically include description of the
interested parties, experience on similar projects, approach to
this project and key team members.
While the RFQ and RFP typically yield submittal packages of
information from interested organizations, the RFQ does not seek
the projection of professional design or construction fees. Rather,
the intent is to identify the best qualified teams.
Under the RFP scenario, a written fee proposal is requested.
This proposal can be part of the owner’s grading and
selection criteria. Many times fees for the proposed services are
enclosed within a sealed envelope. This can help ensure that fees
do not become the primary focus for ranking and selecting your
project team. The owner should confirm with local and state
legislation regarding the legal restrictions to selecting
professional design services utilizing fee-based parameters.
Collected information from the RFQ and RFP submittals allow the
owner to select teams based on the best match of the project needs
compared with the cumulative qualifications of each team. These
teams comprise the pool of candidates that will be requested to
submit further information.
After receiving and reviewing the RFQ and RFP, the owner can
shortlist the highest-ranked qualified firms for participation in a
face-to-face interview. If possible, it is recommended that
shortlisted teams be interviewed on the same day, allowing the
owner to listen to all responses within a condensed time period.
This can provide the owner with the best opportunity to accurately
compare and contrast each team’s strengths and
This interview process will allow the shortlisted firms to
present, in detail, their teams’ makeup, experience, projects
that are similar to the one proposed, approach to completion of the
project and their ability to synergize with the owner. As part of
the interview process, the owner should allow time for a Q&A
period. Ranking of each team may include the following score
Often, an initial proposal may include services that are not
needed for your project. Be ready to negotiate any modifications to
the contract that may be necessary.
Remember that an aquatics-related project is unique from a
traditional building or other park-related projects. Fees
associated with architectural and engineering should be developed
based upon the agreed scope and work, and the associated man-hours
to complete the project.
Remember, too, that costs attributed to the design of your
facility are traditionally a very small percentage of the overall
project cost. This makes selection of a team based heavily on
qualifications important because it can save you money on the
If your decision-making for the team selection becomes strongly
fee-based, ensure that all score approaches are similar, and be
aware of any items that are not included as part of the base
project. One example is excluding construction administration as
part of the consultant’s base fee (under the design-build
scenario) and including it as an additional service. This may lower
the consultant’s incentive to keep the design within budget
and removes accountability when project bids are overbudget. Also
be aware that utilizing a pool equipment provider or builder for
design services may result in a nonproprietary approach to
materials and equipment, jeopardizing the competitive bidding