How to Hire a Contractor in British Columbia – Part Two: Qualities to Look For

There are several issues owners need to consider before beginning the formal construction contract procurement process. Some of these will be reviewed with your Architect early on in the design process. They may include the form of project delivery, the type of construction contract as well as the method of awarding the contract. These critical elements affect the design process itself, as well as the scope of Architectural services, and therefore need to be settled upon before the architectural fee is established.

We will discuss the procurement process in part three of this series. In this article we will focus on general contractor traits to look out for. The process of identifying contractors who exhibit most, if not all, of these traits will let you establish a short-list of pre-selected potential bidders. The advantage of doing this is that most likely the only remaining determining factor will be the price, greatly simplifying your final winning bid selection.

Traits and qualifications to look out for:

Excellent References – It is important to work with your Architect to identify contractors who are capable to successfully complete your project. You may also seek recommendations from within your own network. Once you have a list of contractors contact all of them and ask for referrals and then contact previous clients to discuss their experiences in private. Some of the questions you may ask may be:

  • How did the contractor handle problems?
  • Did they keep the team informed?
  • Was the contractor a good team player and did they get along with the other team members?
  • Was the project completed on budget and on schedule?
  • Did their work meet your quality expectations?
  • Did they respond to warranty issues?
  • Was it a pleasant working relationship?

Efficiency and Time Management Skills – This is a very important category to consider in your selection. The general contractor will be your main construction project manager. They will be responsible for the daily construction process oversight, including managing of the trades and suppliers, information flow to all team members as well as scheduling, coordination, and site safety assurance. Essentially they are responsible for the “How” on the project, while your Architect and Engineers are responsible for the “What”.

Given all this is is imperative that your contractor is very organized. look out for well established procedures and a systematic approach to daily operations.

Good Communication Skills – While clear and efficient project information flow is essential during all project phases, it is especially critical during construction. With a continuous flow of time sensitive questions, answers, requests and approvals that constantly flow between team members, it is important for your contractor to have a proven track record of effective communication through well established procedures and systems.

How are their other Construction Projects run? Is is a good idea to visit a few of your likely proponents’ construction sites to see them in action. It will also be a good idea to bring your Architect along as they will be very accustomed to the construction environment and will be able to spot possible trouble areas.

Doing your homework will go a long way in assuring that you are inviting the right general contractors to join your project team. This trait identification process will allow you to quickly spot general contractors who fit within your chosen project drivers. Once you become familiar with how various local contractors operate you will be in a position to easily pre-select the right ones for your project.


Coming up:

Part Three: The Formal Procurement Process

2009 LDS Calgary 11

LDS Temple in Calgary, Alberta. I worked on this project with ABBARCH Architecture over a four year period. It was completed in 2012.

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