06 April 2012

What happened to the bidding period?

In the good old days, not all that long ago, the architect's work was divided into a few neat phases: schematic design (SD), design development (DD), construction documents (CD), bidding or negotiation, and construction.

In theory, the requirements of each phase are completed before moving on to the next. In practice, it seems we have strayed from the true path.

When I started my present job, more than fifteen years ago, projects progressed through the phases in a fairly linear manner. We didn't issue many addenda, and the ones we did issue were short. Since then, schedules have shrunk, and the separation between phases has blurred. We now do full specs at DD, even though they have little value because many decisions have not been made, and some design issues remain unresolved until the CDs are issued - or beyond. Addenda are common, and lager; I occasionally see one that is half the size of one of the project manual volumes, accompanied by many drawing sheets.

In the last couple of years, I noticed our architects have begun referring to the bidding period as the addendum period. Although it's a relatively harmless practice, as long as you're not talking about the owner-architect agreement, it suggests an unpleasant change in thinking. I hear "We'll take care of that in an addendum" far too often. I thought this might be unique to my office, but a few weeks ago, while at CSI's Master Specifier's Retreat, I mentioned this new name for the bidding period to a couple of other specifiers. One of them said he had been hearing the same thing in his office, and both reported "fixing things by addendum" now is common practice.

This brings to mind a seminar I attended at a CSI convention many years ago. The presenter was a forensic engineer, and the subject was how projects had gone wrong, often with disastrous results. Early in his presentation, the engineer explained the phases of design and construction, carefully noting what things should be done before moving from one phase to the next. He went on to say that all firms claim to follow these phases, yet all seem to have a common maxim: Design stops at substantial completion.

What do you hear in your office? Has the bidding period become the addendum period? Will we next refer to the construction phase as the change order phase?


  1. Recently, an architect-client of mine, upon reviewing my fee/services proposal, commented that she didn't see the "Addendum Period" listed, and wondered if that was included. I responded that there is no official phase with that name, and that some of the projects I work on don't have addenda, but, yes, services for addenda were included.

  2. Corinne Golding13 April, 2012 08:48

    I hear it called "Design by Addendum". While sometimes said with tongue in cheek, it happens way too often.