Security System Procurement

Back to basics on IFBs, RFPs, contractors and the bidding process

Contracting Hierarchy

On small projects and upgrades, the security system procurement documents will be issued directly to candidate security contractors; however, on major construction projects, there are many contractors involved, and it is useful to understand their roles before deciding who will be the “prime contractor” for your security system implementation.

Overall construction responsibility is usually given to the General Contractor (GC) or Construction Manager (CM), who may be the same entity. The GC will hire the Electrical Contractor (EC) and a myriad of specialist contractors for different trades, such as drywall construction, door hardware, elevator work, etc.

The GC, in an attempt to keep the contracts to a minimum, would prefer that the security system work be assigned to the EC; however, typically the EC has little knowledge of the workings of low-voltage security systems or thier components and will rely on a security contractor (SC) for final hook-up, commissioning and testing, in addition to supplying the equipment. In the event of a problem, a finger pointed at the EC will result in the EC’s finger pointed at the SC.

To maintain a sole source, or “turn-key” responsibility for security, it is often preferable to award the security contract directly to an SC. This option has another important benefit: if we are issuing a request for proposal: we will deal directly with SCs; we receive complete proposal packages; we can negotiate with them directly; and, we make the award decision. In addition, dealing directly with the SC means that shop drawing submittals, change order requests and day-to-day communications are direct and do not require a middleman.

The SC — particularly in a new construction union labor environment — may not have the necessary grade of labor for all of the installation work; however, it is preferable for the SC to hire an EC as a sub-contractor. It is important that the prime responsibility for the security work is in the hands of the contractor who is most knowledgeable about the technology and its application.


Pre-qualifying Candidate Security Contractors

If the procurement is “public,” as many state and local government regulations require, the project may have to be publicly advertised. In some cases, a two-step process is followed where response by contractors to a bid advertisement leads to a qualification procedure that reduces the pool of bidders to those best qualified for the project.

Whether “public” or not, the intent is to identify a group of contractors — between three and six — that best fit the criteria for a successful project. They have experience with the type of system to be installed and on projects of similar size and complexity; they are financially sound; and, they can work as a team to coordinate the work with the other trades on the job site.

It is also recommended to interview the prospective contractors before adding them to the bid list — note that the contractor’s project manager is considerably more important to the success of the project than the salesperson. Ability to communicate, audibly and in writing, as well as experience, reputation, availability, approach to problem solving and “chemistry” are all important elements.

Candidate contractors may be ones you have worked with before, recommendations from your network of fellow security professionals, or responders to a questionnaire mailed to companies in a phone book or industry directory.

It is recommended, however, that you only issue your protection system design to pre-qualified companies. If the design is very sensitive, you should require the execution of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with all prospective contractors, limit the issue and copying of documents, and require the return of all documents with the bid or proposal.


Issuing Contract Documents and the Pre-bid Conference