November 20, 2012

Local knowledge rewarded in Infrastructure Ontario RFQ

After consultation with industry stakeholders, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has incorporated new requirements in its request for qualifications (RFQ) documents to help promote local knowledge and content on alternatively financed and procured (AFP) projects.

Under the local construction knowledge category requirements, bidders vying for design-build-finance-maintain contracts must provide “narratives” in four key areas, the agency said.

Bidders must demonstrate “a comprehensive understanding” of the delivery of construction projects in the Ontario market and also describe their approach to “resourcing” the project in this market.

They also must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the Ontario Building Code and other relevant Canadian standards as well as requirements of the authorities having jurisdiction, such as utilities, municipalities and ministries.

In addition, bidders must outline their intended approach to health and safety, including a description of key safety policy approaches, principles and commitment to construction safety.

Applicants are encouraged to provide project examples for each narrative, IO said.

The new requirements have already been incorporated in the RFQ for the new Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness.

“Going forward, local knowledge will be formally recognized as part of the RFQ process by becoming a scored requirement in bidders’ RFQ submissions,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The change was implemented “after pretty extensive consultations” with both industry associations and bidders, said Steve Dyck, vice-president of communications and stakeholder relations at Infrastructure Ontario.

“There were quite a few folks who made representations on this.”

Dyck said one issue that arose “consistently” in meetings with industry officials was the need to look at local knowledge as a key factor in achieving on-time and on-budget performance.

“There were various suggestions for capturing this differently in the RFQ process.”

One of the groups that took part in the consultations, that got underway in February and stretched over the summer months, was the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario, which represents a mix of organizations involved in delivering major infrastructure across the province.

“A bidder’s ability to demonstrate local knowledge through this new requirement will fundamentally impact the ability of local firms to compete successfully for Infrastructure Ontario projects,” said Barry Steinberg, CEO of Consulting Engineers of Ontario, a member of the alliance.

“This is important news for Ontarians because prior to this change we had a profound concern that there was not enough being done to keep jobs in Ontario, rather than sending them offshore. This is a great first step to addressing that concern.”

CEO, which represents 215 engineering firms across the province, said the new requirements “operationalize” a commitment made by Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli to help promote local knowledge and content in infrastructure projects bids.

“This change will send a message to foreign consortia bidding on Infrastructure Ontario projects that using Ontario firms is an important consideration.”

Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association, also a member of the alliance, said that while no AFP contracts for building projects have yet been awarded to foreign consortia, that could eventually change.

”This requirement ensures there is going to be some Canadian content and that Canadian rules are going to be followed,” he said. “This simply sets ground rules for the game, and that is what needed to be done.”

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