Creating a Construction Project Request for Proposal (RFP): A Comprehensive Guide

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a critical document in the construction industry. It serves as the primary means for a client to solicit proposals from potential contractors, outlining the project’s specifications, requirements, and expectations. When executed effectively, an RFP can streamline the bidding process, ensure that project objectives are met, and select the best-suited contractor. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the key steps involved in creating a construction project RFP, emphasizing best practices and important considerations.

Define Project Objectives and Scope

Before creating the RFP, the first step is to define the project’s objectives and scope in detail. This includes determining the project’s purpose, goals, timeline, budget, and any specific needs or requirements. Clearly articulate the project’s purpose and intended outcomes, which will serve as a foundation for the entire document.

What to Include

Your name, company, and contact info.

Project name and address. 

Project Goals – Identify the goals of the service.  What are you trying to accomplish?  This can be one sentence or a paragraph.  The more knowledge you have about the specific trade, equipment, or product desired, the more descriptive you can get about the goals of your service. 

Example:  Replace uneven sidewalks at main entrance. 

Project Rules – Are there any project rules or regulations that must be followed?

Building/Site Specific Rules


Security/Site Access

Time Frame for Work Completion

Daily work hours (standard, nights, weekends)

Insurance Requirements (discuss with your insurance agent)

Tip:  Overly burdensome requirements will result in higher pricing.  

Information Requirements

What information do you want the bidders to include to help you decide?  (ex. warranty, schedule, crew size, etc.).  This saves time for you as the purchaser and then as the bidder from having to go back and get this information later.

Deadlines – Set a deadline to receive proposals. A minimum of 1 week to a maximum of 4 weeks is a good time frame depending on the size/difficulty of the project and how soon the project must begin.  You may also want to include a deadline for any questions so that the answers do not delay the bidding process.  

Attachments – Are there any building plans, sketches, specifications, or other information that the bidders should use in compiling their bid?

Proposal Submission – How do you want the proposals submitted? 

E-mail – This is the easiest method.  Let the bidders know who should be copied on the e-mail. 

Hard Copy – Regular mail or hand delivered.

Sealed Bid – Sealed bids ensure that there is no bid tampering by any parties.  Some property managers use this method and choose to open the bids in the presence of the building owners to show them that the bids were provided in good faith.

References – Require the bidders to provide a minimum of 3 project references that are similar in size and scope to your project.  References should provide contact names, phone numbers, work description, project value and e-mail addresses at a minimum.

Identify Key Stakeholders

Identify and involve all key stakeholders in the RFP development process. This includes internal team members, project managers, architects, engineers, and any other individuals who have a vested interest in the project’s success. Their input and insights are valuable for creating a comprehensive RFP.

Create a Detailed Project Description

Provide a thorough project description that includes all relevant details. This should encompass project location, size, layout, materials, and any unique features. Clearly specify what work is in-scope and what is out-of-scope. Be specific about the project’s physical, functional, and aesthetic requirements.

Establish Evaluation Criteria

Define the criteria that will be used to evaluate the proposals. Factors to consider include experience, qualifications, safety records, past performance, technical competence, pricing, and compliance with project requirements. Clearly outline how these criteria will be weighed and used to make the selection.

Do not just evaluate solely based on price.   First, you must make sure that the proposals are comparable.   Look for similarities and differences between the proposals.  Similarities confirm that these work items should be included in the scope.  Differences indicate things that must be questioned and clarified with the bidders.  Write down everything that is included in one proposal and not the others.  Use this as a master list of items to clarify with each bidder.  No questions are too silly to ask. 

Look at the quality of each proposal and the amount of description.  Did they include all the information that you asked for in your scope of work?  A poor proposal indicates lack of understanding and could also be a sign of a bad contractor.

Follow Up with References

If you have never worked with a particular contractor before, calling references is a must.

Keep in mind that all contractors will only provide references that will provide positive feedback for their company.  Therefore, WHAT you ask them is very important. 

Phone calls or emails can be used to follow up with references.  However, phone calls are the best method.  It gives the respondent less time to think about the question and provide an answer.  You might find out more information that either confirms your opinion about a particular contractor or changes it. Phone calls also allow you to immediately follow up an answer with another question.  Odds are that the reference contact person will not want to continually respond to e-mails since they are busy with their own job.

What to ask a reference:

Ask the reference to briefly describe the project.  This lets you know if the project is truly a comparable reference.

Did the contractor do a good job?  This seems like an obvious question, but it’s very important.  Since the contractor provided the reference you can almost guarantee that they will say “yes.”  However, if they say “no”, that is an immediate red flag. 

Did the contract show up when they said that they would?

Did they provide the manpower that they said that they would?

Did they meet the project schedule?  If not, why?

Did they come back with a lot of additional project costs and change orders?

Did they have to come back for a warranty repair after the work was complete?  This response is important for several reasons.  For one, it can give you an indication of whether or not the contractor performs quality work.  Secondly, all contractors have issues with equipment, materials or workmanship at some point in their career.  What’s important is how they responded to the issue and whether or not they returned to resolve it.

Would you hire them again?

Include Legal and Administrative Requirements

Incorporate any legal and administrative requirements, such as permits, licenses, insurance, and bonding. Ensure that all contractors understand the legal obligations they will have to meet and specify what documentation they must provide.

Timeline and Milestones

Provide a detailed project timeline, including key milestones and deadlines. This allows contractors to assess their ability to meet your schedule. It also sets clear expectations for project progress and completion.

Budget and Payment Structure

Outline the budget for the project and the payment structure. This could include the total project cost, payment schedule, and any incentive programs or penalties for meeting or missing deadlines. Be transparent about how costs will be managed and tracked.

Technical Specifications

Include comprehensive technical specifications for the project. This should cover all materials, equipment, and methods to be used. Technical details ensure that all bidders understand the required standards and quality expectations.

Health and Safety Requirements

Emphasize the importance of safety by including health and safety requirements in the RFP. Contractors should outline their safety protocols, training programs, and record of safety compliance.

Insurance and Bonding

Specify the insurance and bonding requirements, including the types and amounts of coverage required. This helps protect your project and stakeholders in the event of unforeseen issues.

Proposal Format and Submission Guidelines

Clearly explain the format for proposal submissions, including the required documents, number of copies, and electronic submission guidelines. Make sure to include a deadline for submission and any pre-submission conferences or site visits.

Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements

If necessary, include confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements to protect sensitive project information. Contractors should understand their obligations regarding the confidentiality of the project details.

Questions and Clarifications

Provide a point of contact for any questions or clarifications regarding the RFP. This will help ensure that all potential contractors have a clear understanding of the project requirements.

Evaluation and Selection Process

Outline the process for evaluating proposals, including the formation of a selection committee, the scoring methodology, and the timeline for selecting the contractor. Be transparent about how decisions will be made and communicated.

Appendices and Supporting Documents

Include any relevant appendices and supporting documents, such as architectural plans, site surveys, environmental impact reports, and any other materials that will aid potential contractors in their proposal preparation.



Review and Proofread

Before finalizing the RFP, conduct a thorough review and proofread to eliminate any errors, ambiguities, or inconsistencies. The RFP should be a clear, concise, and professional document.

Pre-RFP Meeting

Consider holding a pre-RFP meeting with potential bidders to provide clarifications and answer questions. This can enhance understanding and participation in the bidding process.

Proposal Evaluation and Selection

Once the proposals are submitted, carefully evaluate them based on the established criteria. Involve the selection committee in the process and ensure a fair and thorough assessment. Notify the selected contractor and negotiate the terms of the contract.

Communicate Results

This is the most overlooked step.

Inform all bidders about the results of the selection process. It is good practice to provide feedback to unsuccessful bidders and encourage them to bid on future projects.

Let the other bidders know that they were not awarded this job.

Offer feedback about what was the determining factor and where they can improve in the future.

E-mail is the best method.  It’s the least time-consuming and doesn’t require you to get involved in an uncomfortable conversation. 

This only requires 3 to 5 sentences.  Thank them for their time, letting them know that the work was awarded.  Include a statement about how they can improve their proposal in the future and let them know that you will keep them in mind for future projects.   

You may need these contractors in the future and ask them to provide proposals on future services.  They will remember that you took the time to respond to them and giving them feedback about their proposal will make them feel as though they got VALUE out of the time that they spent.  Remember, they typically provide you with all this information, effort, and value FOR FREE. 

Add the contractors who bid on the project to your database.  You never know if you will need them again or if a co-worker will ask you for a recommendation.



Contract Finalization

Work with the selected contractor to finalize the contract. Ensure that all terms and conditions are understood and agreed upon by both parties.

Creating a construction project RFP is a complex and vital task. When done effectively, it can lead to the successful completion of your construction project, meeting both your goals and expectations. The RFP serves as the foundation for a transparent and competitive bidding process, ultimately resulting in the selection of the most qualified contractor. By following these steps and best practices, you can create an RFP that minimizes misunderstandings, encourages quality bids, and helps you realize your construction project goals.

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