School enrollments, for both K-12 and higher education, are reaching record levels while many facilities and infrastructure near the end of their physical lives. Crowded and aging academic buildings need high-quality and competitively priced repair and renovation now more than ever, but schools typically have narrow timeframes for completing construction projects. Education administrators want flexible and efficient construction procurement methods to fit their needs.

Many administrators are turning to job order contracting (JOC), an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity procurement method that can accommodate unique scheduling requirements. The JOC process can deliver high-quality construction while saving time—and when well-managed, may save money. JOC enables schools and universities to complete many routine repair and renovation projects with a single, competitively bid contract. Administrators can use JOC to accurately price projects in advance and perform the work when the academic schedule permits.

JOC defined

The JOC process is best for small- to medium-sized, straightforward repairs and renovations. Typical projects include ADA-compliant bathrooms, energy-efficient lighting and HVAC upgrades, as well as classroom, lab and residence hall renovations. JOC also is well-suited for replacement-in-kind projects such as replacing a roof, windows or doors and hardware. Administrators also may turn to JOC to complete the work of a non-performing traditional contractor, finishing up the punch list, and performing additional work when a school or university cannot reach an agreement on price with the existing contractor.

JOC was invented almost 30 years ago to tackle the demanding requirements, tight timeframes, and stringent, complicated competitive bidding requirements at U.S. Army facilities in Europe. The purpose of JOC was to simplify the process of completing routine, straightforward repair and renovation projects. Today, more than 1,000 job order contracts are active and account for more than $1.5 billion of construction annually.

The JOC process is available to smaller school districts and colleges through cooperative purchasing networks. Using cooperative purchasing, schools and colleges use group buying power to achieve the time and cost savings made possible through JOC procurement.

The JOC process can relieve the burden placed on administrators to have projects designed and bid individually. Instead, contractors bid an adjustment factor to be applied to a unit price book, such as the Construction Task Catalog (CTC) or a national estimating guide, which contain preset unit prices for a variety of construction tasks, such as a square foot of painting, a square foot of ceiling tile, chalkboards, doors or hardware. The JOC contract generally is awarded to the lowest, responsive, responsible bidder, or, depending upon a school’s bidding options, the contractor deemed to offer the best value. Once a contract is awarded, an administrator can ask the contractor to perform a series of projects. For each one, the contractor is paid the preset unit prices, multiplied by the quantity, multiplied by the competitively bid adjustment factor.

Another key feature of the JOC process is the joint-scope meeting, where the owner, contractor and JOC representative visit the project site and review the details of the work to be completed. They discuss and resolve any issues or problems. The meeting provides an opportunity for open communication and minimizes the confusion that often leads to change orders. As details are worked out in advance of a project, a joint scope meeting helps minimize disruption of the academic schedule.

Non-Traditional Methods

Education construction projects often must be scheduled to fit a school calendar; work typically must be done over summer or holiday breaks, while students are away. Schedules and start dates must be flexible. Also, the list of required projects and the costs associated with those projects may exceed the available funds, so projects must be prioritized; costs must be known in advance. These two objectives are difficult to accomplish with traditional construction-procurement methods.

With JOC, however, the problems associated with these two objectives are minimized. First, the schedule is flexible. The contractor will be paid the fixed price whether the work is started on Monday, or a week from Monday. Second, the contractor can prepare price proposals for a series of projects, enabling the owner to determine which projects can be accomplished with the available funds.

The traditional bidding process may take too long for high-priority projects or time-sensitive projects and is not adaptable to fit tight timeframes that come with an academic calendar

Time and Cost Savings

A well-managed JOC program eliminates the time, expense and administrative burden of completing the normal design-bid-build cycle for each project.

After the initial bid of a JOC contract, administrators do not need to prepare, copy, advertise and distribute bid packages for each project. Individual projects do not have to go through the formal bid and award process. Administrative costs associated with bidding are eliminated. Because contractors are bidding a series of projects, instead of each small project, they may offer a volume discount. Change orders are reduced because the contractors participate in the joint scope meeting. If changes are needed, they are priced directly from the unit price book.

In addition to cost savings, JOC delivers significant time savings, as the job order can be developed and work can start within days or weeks. Typical small, straightforward projects can start in less than a week; larger, more complex projects will take about a month to develop.

Sidebar:Case Studies

Some examples of JOC:

•In 1991, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth-largest public school district in the nation, became the first school system to use the JOC process. The district has since carried out thousands of projects ranging from major paint projects, cooling tower and chiller replacement, fire alarms, sprinkler systems and classroom and laboratory renovations.

•A 2011 audit of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s JOC program revealed that the district saved significant time and money using the alternative-procurement method. District construction officials reported JOC projects were completed twice as fast as those using a traditional bid method. In addition, the audit found that with 6,000 JOC projects completed, the district saved an average of 9.26 percent in costs.

•City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) had used a mix of cost-plus procurement and traditional bidding for repair and renovation projects, but found them to be either too expensive or too slow. In 2009-2010, CCC began a customized JOC program to speed up construction and cut costs. In 2007, before the JOC program, 21 repair-type projects were bid traditionally. After JOC, CCC more than tripled that amount; 69 projects were completed in 13 months.

•The University of California System began a customized JOC program in 2007, using a locally priced Construction Task Catalog featuring campus-approved materials and products. Completed projects include the restoration of the University of California-Berkeley’s landmark Sather Gate. The UCLA campus uses a JOC contract to quickly mobilize contractors and complete flooring and painting projects for student housing when its schedule permits by having job orders prepared ahead of time, precise quantities already established and materials on site.

•The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio uses its JOC contract for facility repair and alterations, including clinical and laboratory renovations. It uses JOC to prepare estimates for all work completed by the facilities department, whether it is done using the JOC process, traditional bid or in-house services.

Mellon is the inventor of job order contracting (JOC), and founder and chairman of The Gordian Group, Inc., Mauldin, S.C. He can be reached at hmellon@TheGordianGroup.com.

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