Current federal contracting laws are harming the livelihood of small architecture firms and costing the government money by increasing the number of firms competing, while discouraging small firms from entering the market, according to recent AIA testimony.
Testifying before the House of Representatives Small Business Committee, AIA First Vice President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, called for reform of the design-build contracting process so that design and architectural firms can bid on federal contracts without fear of bankrupting themselves in the process. The federal market has been a key for architecture firms’ survival in the recession, and increased competition has forced many small players to stop participating in federal contracts.
“When teams are shortlisted in two-step design-build, an architecture firm spends a median of $260,000 to compete for a design-build project, by making plans, models and other materials,” Dreiling testified. When approximately 76% of firms make less than $1 million annually, this creates a “Hobson’s Choice” on spending limited capital for the chance to win a federal contract.
“In almost 87 percent of federal design-build competitions, there are no stipends provided to the architectural firm,” she said. “The firm must hope that they win to make up the costs they expend in competing for the job.”
Dreiling said there is a great need for Congress to reform federal contracting laws so that small businesses can both survive the bidding process and bring quality work to the federal government. “We ask the Committee to look at tightening the statute so that all firms can accurately determine the risks and rewards of participating in this market,” Dreiling said.