The first step in a large construction operation in a foreign country is "testing the waters." A few weeks ago, the Rebuilding Center sent out prequalification packets to about a dozen Haitian contracting companies who want to build schools with Architecture for Humanity. The packets contain a drawing set for a hypothetical school–the contractors are to then calculate costs for building the school–contractors are in charge of sourcing the labor, materials and transportation for building construction. We ask for a lot of quotes to get a better idea first how much a project will actually cost (compared to our in-house estimates, or "take offs"), but also how accurate we can expect estimates to be, based on the variation of the quotes we get back.
The hypothetical school featured in the packet is simple–a two-classroom "block" on a concrete foundation, including typical concrete block walls, wood roof truss and corrugated metal roof. The school includes an entire site, including parking a driveway and a play area, though the site is flat, requiring very little "site work."
The quotes coming back this week have been varied, but that's due to different estimates on the amounts of material needed–for instance one contractor estimated twice as much concrete needed to pour the foundation from what we've calculated in-house! On the up side, prices per unit were fairly consistent. Adjusting for the varied quantity estimates, the quotes all still run on the expensive side, but the Haitian construction culture includes a bargaining period–there'll be a bit of back-and-forth before we land on a reasonable agreement–and now the design team is drawing straws to see who gets to negotiate...