Electronically Sealed Bids: Improve the Bidding Process for Public Works Projects 

electronically sealed bids

Jobsite activity may have temporarily slowed down in recent weeks, but for many public works projects around the country, the show must go on. For many regions, public works projects have been deemed as essential infrastructure.  

In a time when virtual collaboration has become the norm, builders need a way to confidentially and safely submit sealed bids online. In general, the competitive bidding process for public works projects usually involves public advertisement for the submission of sealed bids, the public opening of bids, and the award of contracts to the lowest responsible bidder that is responsive to the solicitation for bids. To help meet the high demands of owners, governments, public entities, or GCs bidding out a public works project, while reducing in-person visits and meetings, electronically sealed bids have become the new standard. 

With electronically sealed bids, builders can ensure that all bids are kept confidential until the bid due date without the hassle of subcontractors having to physically hand in bids or attend a public bid opening (sometimes referred to as a “rip-and-read"). Instead, subcontractors can submit their sealed bids online and revise them right up to the bid due date, eliminating the need to meet in person.  

Today, leading construction firms are using BuildingConnected to keep public works projects on track with electronically sealed bidding. Here’s a look at how two BuildingConnected customers—general contractor Structure Tone and owner UCSF Real Estate—are benefiting from this feature today. 

What are some of the advantages of electronically sealed bidding? 

“Some of the top benefits include time saved, easier procurement management, and increased transparency between project partners,” said Karly O’Brien, Estimator at Structure Tone. “Sealed bidding also enables better historical data collection and allows us to better organize the information requested from bidders: things like breakout costs and alternates that you can require on bid forms.”  

“Personally, I’m a big fan of the Bid Archive option. We always use this tool when filing the submitted bids on our company drive. The standard cover page it makes for each bidder helps keep things organized,” said Karly.  

Elizabeth Hsu, Contracts Manager for Health Design & Construction at UCSF Real Estate, echoed these sentiments.  

“The biggest benefit is definitely the increased ease of issuing and opening bids,” Elizabeth said.

“All of our contacts are in one place. All questions and answers are also issued from one place.”  

How have sealed bids helped your team navigate the current environment, while in-person “rip-and-reads” aren’t possible? 

“The majority of our CM bids were already using the electronic sealed bidding options prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. The fact that we were already so familiar with the electronic bids was an added positive to help others navigate this time,” said Karly.  

“It’s been so helpful during the shelter-in-place order because the system economizes on time and allows us to stay green,” Elizabeth said. "The sealed bid function helps us organize bids much more efficiently online. “  

What have you heard from subs about their experience submitting sealed bids through BuildingConnected? 

“Sealed bidding gives subcontractors more time in the long run because there’s no mailing or messenger time needed. It took us a while to drill into their heads that it is a true hard deadline, but at this point, they are very familiar with it,” said Karly.  

She also shared a strategy that has worked well for her team at Structure Tone to encourage on-time bid submittals from subcontractors.  

“We wait until the last half hour that we are ready to unseal bids before we make the owner the Bid Admin. That way, if you know one of your bidders will be a half hour or so late, you can extend the deadline slightly before turning over the Admin position,” she said.  

Elizabeth has found the fact that subcontractors are often familiar with BuildingConnected a huge benefit to increasing response rates for the GCs they work with.  

“Most subcontractors are already registered on the BuildingConnected network,” she said. “If they aren’t registered, the GC can easily invite them. Generally, we receive sealed bids from the GC on a project. The general contractor obtains the sealed bids from the subcontractors, then uses that information to inform their bid.”   

Save time and stay organized with electronically sealed bidding   

Managing projects that require bids to be sealed can be a cumbersome task—but with electronically sealed bidding, it doesn’t have to be. By bringing the process online, builders can boost efficiency, improve remote communication, and save much-needed time.  

“This feature easily saves us at least 1-2 working days per project,” said Karly. 

While this feature is especially helpful today, its usefulness extends far beyond our current working environment. By moving their bidding processes online, builders make their processes more efficient and set themselves up to be much more resilient when facing the unexpected.  

If you’re interested in learning more about electronically sealed bidding—or getting a guided tour of BuildingConnected—get in touch!  

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory was a Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk Construction Solutions.