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Leveraging e-Bidding Software for Design-Build Contracts

March 13, 2024

e-Bidding software is perhaps the most ubiquitous digital project delivery technology in use in the infrastructure construction industry. Adoption was already on the rise before the pandemic, but COVID-19 forced widespread implementation of bidding processes that would allow agencies to accept electronic bid submissions from their vendors. Once both groups started experiencing the many benefits associated with e-bidding, it became a difficult proposition to return to the previous paper-based submission processes. It’s now standard for organizations to offer e-bidding, with some state and county groups going as far as to mandate it.

As e-Bidding software rose in popularity, so did another industry trend: design-build contracts over the traditional unit-price model. Design-Build contracts are yet to be widely adopted in the infrastructure construction industry, but their use is still growing, with some states like Florida making them a top priority. For some organizations, this presented a challenge - they had just adopted software for e-bidding on unit-price contracts - did they now need to invest and train on another platform for evaluating design-build proposals?

Fortunately for these organizations, that is generally not the case. e-Bidding platforms like our own Bid Express have begun to incorporate scoring and evaluation features to make them flexible enough to use for both design-build and unit price contracts. In this article, we’ll review the differences between these two contract types and outline how e-bidding software is being used for design-build proposal evaluation.

Understanding Design-Build Contracts

The use of design-build contracts is rapidly on the rise due to the collaborative advantages they bring to the construction process. In a traditional project delivery process with a unit-price contract, the project designer and the project contractors work as separate entities. An engineer’s estimate is created based on the project design, then the project is uploaded to an e-bidding site with all the associated project items. Contractors then submit bids with their varying prices for the associated items, and the contract is awarded to the lowest bidder whose bid stands up to analysis. To be clear, there are still many advantages to the traditional project delivery process. The project owner has greater control and understanding over price and the competitive bidding process can drive down costs.

So, why are organizations increasingly adopting design-build contracts? Under design-build project delivery, the key difference is in the collaborative relationship between the contractor and the designer. The project owner provides their budget and project completion date, and design-build teams (usually engineering/contractor groups) will submit proposals for evaluation. Rather than price alone, this evaluation will be based on factors like experience, skill, understanding of the project, time availability, etc. Once selected, the entire team of designers, contractors, and sub-contractors collaborate to achieve the best project outcomes as they build the asset. Communication is easier for the owners and projects are often completed faster as they’re not held up by contractor coordination, payment disputes, or an extensive bidding process. With these advantages, you can see how organizations that are more concerned with project outcomes and collaboration than overall cost may favor design-build. But where does e-Bidding software come into play?

The Benefits of e-Bidding Software

First, let’s recap some of the key benefits of e-bidding software as most, if not all, will still apply when these software platforms are used for design-build contracts. Since you are likely familiar with most of these, we’ll do this quickly in bulleted fashion:

  • Eliminate travel and potential delays from weather or postage

  • Drive down bid prices with increased competition

  • Reduce errors from the bidding process through automated checks and omission alerts

  • Template recurring bids for expedited set-up

  • Engage with the contractor community via Q&A forums

  • Collect all bids and bid tabulations in one convenient place for analysis

Ema Ludge, and Engineering Office Administrative Specialist summed up the advantages of e-bidding very succinctly; “It saves a ton of time and money for us and our contractors.” Whether you are bidding traditional unit-price contracts or design-build contracts, the advantages of using an online system are evident, as highlighted by Tina Collins, IT Consultant for the Ohio Department of Transportation; “Anytime you go with online bidding, the number of issues you have with the bidding process is going to be reduced. The human error component has largely been taken out of the equation.” So, why can’t every organization use their existing e-bidding platform to evaluate design-build contracts? The point of the article is that they can - if their software is evolving alongside industry demands.

Using e-Bidding Software for Design-Build Contracts

There are two key concerns when it comes to using e-bidding software for design-build contracts:

  • Many e-bidding software platforms solely award contracts based on low price rather than other evaluation factors

  • After the contract is awarded, there needs to be a way to advance the project to the collaborative management process between designers, contractors, and sub-contractors

But before we discuss those two issues, it is important to highlight that all of the above benefits associated with e-bidding software transfer cleanly over to the design-build process with the same software. Because e-bidding software is widely adopted, you can still communicate project specifications and required tools to a wide range of design-build teams looking to submit proposals for your project. And all the other benefits - eliminating travel, error reduction, Q&A communication - are inherently part of any e-bidding platform worth its salt. Additionally, e-bidding platforms take security very seriously and involve layers of encryption, digital signatures, and other features that protect your information and the information of your vendors.

Back to those two key concerns- the truth is, for many e-bidding platforms, they are ceasing to become concerns at all. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

RFP Scoring & Evaluation

While e-bidding platforms were initially built to award contracts based on low-price, it just takes a few tweaks to adapt them for design-build contracts. Take Bid Express, our own e-bidding platform. Over the past few years, we’ve introduced gradual enhancements that enable Bid Express to handle design-build contracts in the same way it handles unit-price contracts. For example, we’ve introduced an Evaluation function that lets owners evaluate and score RFP responses according to their determined criteria and weighting. There are two ways to do this:

Input scores from an external scoring system

If your agency has a scoring system outside of Bid Express, you can accept proposals in Bid Express and simply edit their score, as seen below.

Input scores from an external scoring system
Editing Scores

Evaluating responses in Bid Express

The Bid Express Request for Proposal (RFP) functionality allows you to solicit detailed proposals and score responses according to their specified criteria and weights. With RFP functionality, agencies can:

  • Enter a basic score for each response post-bid opening or incorporate external scores

  • Opt to use the Bid Express evaluation function to assign evaluation criteria, deadline, and evaluators

  • Opt to allow for the creation of a vendor shortlist

  • Incorporate external evaluators as needed.

  • Easily select a shortlist of responses to move to next project phase

RFP scoring in Bid Express is a simple multiplication of weights and scores given for each component of your evaluation criteria. You can also export a scoring report that includes solicitation information, evaluation totals, and bidders. In the images below, you can see how you can create scores and assign weighting to various proposal items in Bid Express.

RFP Scoring in Bid Express
Assigning weights to different items

Progressing the Awarded Contract to Collaborative Management

Once you’ve scored and selected your design-build team in Bid Express, you still need a way to oversee and/or manage the project collaboratively. That’s where product integration comes into play. As API use grows more popular, an increasing number of software vendors are seeing the advantages of integrating their software with other platforms that cover a different phase of the infrastructure construction process. For example, Bid Express integrates with Appia, a construction administration and inspection tool also developed by Infotech. By importing an awarded Bid Express contract into Appia, organizations can accomplish the following:

  • Simplify and expedite project set-up and analyze bids

  • Add all associated project stakeholders to one platform

  • Provide access as needed, with options for free read-only access

Once a project is in Appia, the design-build team can do all of their project tracking and reporting in one place for easy oversight and approvals from the project owner.

Are you looking for an e-bidding platform that can also handle RFP evaluation?

If you’re looking for a platform that has all the associated benefits of e-bidding while also being able to handle RFP evaluation for design-build contracts, consider Bid Express! Our RFP evaluation tools are always growing - plus, if you bounce back and forth between design-build and unit price contracts, this is one platform that can handle both. Contact us to see if Bid Express can work for you, or learn more here.


Nate Binder
Digital Marketing Manager
A proud graduate of Florida State University, Nate works with subject matter experts and sales professionals to produce targeted marketing collateral.