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DIGGER, voice for good or SWP polemic?
#61
Perhaps the need for developer "heritage insurance"?
#62
I have put out lots of tenders over a 12-year period, and my experience chimes with that of Post-Med Potterer fairly closely. I have a few supplementary comments though:

1. Even where there is a tight spec, the prices sometimes vary amazingly (in one case, from around ?90K to ?400K for the same job to a detailed spec).

2. We always look at quality issues as well as price; in part, we use the RAO rules as a framework for doing this, together with our own experience of the contractors in question. However, we also try to filter before issuing the tender (and discuss the list with the curator), so that only units that both we and the curator have confidence in get invited in the first place. On that basis, they have to do something wrong in the actual tender process to get excluded on quality grounds.

3. Notwithstanding the above, we do not always appoint the cheapest; in probably around 20% of cases we appoint the second-cheapest, and I believe that on one occasion we have appointed the third cheapest.

4. On contingencies, we always build-in provisional allowances for specific items that might or might not be required, and also a general contingency based on a percentage of the subtotal. That way, the tender total is likely to be the maximum that the client will end up paying, rather than the minimum.

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished
#63
Well I am glad I can cheer people up, but I was adopting a 'glass half full' approach to this topic. One of the many flies in this particular ointment is rightly pointed out by mercenary.

Quote:quote:This assumes some kind of track record between contractor and client though. The problems seem to creep in however with developers who have no experience of dealing with archaeological conditions....[who]...automatically go for the cheapest tender, when they appear wholly ignorant of the reasons for the condition and the whole archaeological planning process

Indeed it does, and in my case we are fortunate in having built up good relations with key clients who provide most of our work*. To continue with my earlier analogy this is like moving to a new town and looking in the yellow pages for a garage to do your car servicing (hence why the RAO scheme and the IFA are important).

Mercenary also makes the very good point that

Quote:quote:...developers in [his] region are put off by contingencies in tenders and prefer a fixed price. It makes for very risky tendering

It does indeed, and this is a problem that we all have to face and deal across the country. As archaeologists we are almost unique in this! Unlike a builder, who can quantity survey down to the last brick, we are always guessing how to price archaeology. It might be a lovely deeply stratified site all they way back to the Iron Age, or all post-Roman deposits may have been removed by the 1830's factory. Unfortunately this is the nature of the Beast (not Beer Beast - he always needs a contingency at the end of the night for a kebab if I recallBig Grin) and it will always be with us. Archaeological pricing is rather like taking your car in to the garage because it needs a new wheelbearing and then finding that the track rod ends need doing as well. A good garage will warn you in advance of the likelihood of this - based on their own experience of that make/model/mileage etc - and of the probable cost.

I am in two minds about contingencies. I agree that they are good for precisely this sort of eventuality, but I have known them to be used rather unscrupulously as a tender-winning strategy - ie. put the 'headline figure' down but bung all the expensive stuff (which you know will be required) as a contingency.

Stopping this is down to curators (or consultants as 1man points out), who must ensure that the WSI matches the specification.

Again though I go back to my earlier point - I think the main objection that developers have is not so much cost but effect on timescale. Transparency in tendering is the key to explaining this.



*Ironically the best clients are not always the ones you would expect. We have worked for a major national heritage organisation (think oak leaves and green wellies) who were utterly clueless and prepared to machine away large chunks of 18th century archaeology. We have also worked for clients on behalf of well known ruthless supermarket operators who were very pleased to be able to deal with things properly, and delighted that we included provision for public archaeology.
#64
Quote:quote:*Ironically the best clients are not always the ones you would expect. We have worked for a major national heritage organisation (think oak leaves and green wellies) who were utterly clueless and prepared to machine away large chunks of 18th century archaeology.

Curious. we have had the same experience.[?][?][?]
#65
Well, not quite so cheerful now!Sad

Tendering builders will indeed price against a Bill of Quantities, prepared by the design team, who would be insane, not to say negligent, not to include a contingency sum. Any item, i.e. extra work or materials, instructed while on site and not listed in the contract documents is an extra. It's rather difficult to see how this procedure can be translated into archaeology, which it seems to me is what the contract arch system attempts to do. Broadly speaking an open ended or otherwise unfair contract is enforcable (doesn't exost) in English law. It would clearly be unfair to require a contractor to properly excavate an unexpected chariot burial without paying the extra for it! You would have to pay your garage to repair your track rod or any other unforseen fault.

It seems to me that many of the problems with contract archaeology stem at least in part from the impracticality of having to price against the unknown.

We owe the dead nothing but the truth.
#66
Quote:quote:Originally posted by the invisible man

Well, not quite so cheerful now!Sad

It seems to me that many of the problems with contract archaeology stem at least in part from the impracticality of having to price against the unknown.

Which is why on deeply stratified sites it is usually good to get a local unit involved. They know what they are likely to find and will price accordingly.
#67
A carefully-constructed Bill of Quantities, put together by someone who knows their onions not only on archaeology but also on contracts and pricing, can deal with the unknowns to a large extent. Will come back to this in more detail later.

1man1desk

to let, fully furnished


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