Price Is Not Everything

Having been involved in the engineering and construction industry only since 1976, some might consider my observations to be those of a relative newcomer, but I am fascinated by "reverse auctions" and the debate they have sparked (ENR 11/4/02 p. 34).

The federal government, with all of its legislative, regulatory and purchasing power, has struggled for years with low bids. Just look at the volume of construction claim litigation in the various boards of contract appeal and the federal court system. So much so that many agencies of the federal government are increasingly embracing various forms of best value procurement in an effort to get away from the adversarial nature of the low bid system and to improve their overall satisfaction with what they buy. So it would seem that, at least in this case, the private sector ought to be learning something from the Feds, and that is that price isn’t everything.

From a contractor’s perspective, most would agree that they can do a project quick or cheap or good–just pick any two. From an owner’s perspective, selecting a contractor based on pricing the competition instead of the work is a sure recipe for dissatisfaction, if not outright disaster. It follows that any process designed to simply cut costs at all costs is bound to prove over time to be nothing but bad business all around.

Vice President, Contract Services
Parsons Brickerhoff Construction Services Herndon, Va.

Shooting Construction

What a wonderful story on construction photography (ENR 12/30/02–1/6 p. 16). Having taken progress photos on hundreds of projects and being an avid photographer, I have always been impressed by the beauty and art found in the construction process. What I learned from the article was to include people. I have always tried to get a picture of the construction rather than the construction. Construction people are particularly colorful in any season. Thanks for highlighting the art.

PETERS & Co. Project Management and Engineering Inc.
Zionsville, Ind.

The article on construction photography showed some captivating views of megaprojects in the U.S. and around the world. We agree that photographs play a major role in any construction project, used for verifying the progress of work, change orders, claims, and for sales presentations.

Our firm acts on behalf of lenders on projects valued between $10 million and $100 million. Our monthly progress photographs give the lender and the owner a play-by-play record of the progress of the work, including what has been accomplished during the applicable period ending, and what has not. In some instances we have taken sample photographs from each monthly report on a particular project and turned that into a video for sales purposes, showing the project progressing from the foundations to the finished product.

And yes, we try for the unusual shot, from different and impossible angles, with three-dimensional views of building components and the entire structures, just to dress up our reports. Of course, we’re often challenged by tradesman who think we’re from OSHA.

Construction Economists of America Inc.
Lewistown, N.Y.