FAQ: Construction Practices for Facilities & Services

Whom do I call for information on a proposed renovation, for technical assistance, or for predesign advice on contemplated work?

Please call your Property Manager (to find your Property Manager) who will help or put you in touch with the design group. F & S can provide estimates, alternative suggestions, sketch design drawings, and the technical information which may have to be considered before you proceed further. These services are free of charge. Our role is to make sure that any work on campus complies with good construction practices and meets your needs.

Why are University Trades used for so much of the work? Do I have to use University trades?University Trades are primarily considered an emergency response service. On project work, they bid, just like any contractor, for the work. If time is of concern, and a project is under $5,000 in value, the work may be assigned to the Trades. However, you may always request that your Property Manager seek competitive pricing from other contractors. This process should not take more than a week and the work can then be awarded to the low bidder. It should be noted that you are not charged GST on University Trades labour  costs, unlike contractor costs.

How are contracts awarded?
The tender or quote is awarded to the lowest bidder unless there are circumstances such as improper documentation, unacceptable completion dates or serious errors in the submission. With formal tenders, the Purchasing Officer within the Purchasing Department makes the decision jointly with the Property Manager or Design representative. Departments are always welcome to attend and review tender openings.

Can I select the contractor I want for my project?
University policies require competitive bidding for all but emergency work, from a list of pre-qualified contractors registered with the Purchasing Department. Any contractor with appropriate experience, liability insurance, who is financially sound and has completed the University of Toronto Contractor’s Qualification Statement, can bid on University work. For most trades, the contractor must, according to University practices, pay Metro Toronto “Fair Wages”, which are close to union rates, but no union affiliation is required for the tradespersons. Subject to some minor qualifiers, all painting and all electrical work(including communications cabling) can only be contracted, subcontracted or sublet to unionized contractors. If you wish to recommend a firm, the Purchasing Department can analyse a contractor’s qualification statement within a week. The list of qualified contractors is updated monthly and is available from Purchasing.

We need some minor changes to our space. How do we get quick action at a competitive price?
Call your Property Manager (to find your Property Manager). He/she will review your requirements. If the job is small ( less than $5,000 ), the Property Manager will enquire whether you will approve a time and material charge or whether you want a firm quotation. The quickest way to get these jobs done is on a time and material basis. This, however, can be more expensive than competitive quotes. If you have concerns about the cost of your small projects, give the Property Manager adequate notice so that firm quotations may be obtained from bidders. At least a week is required to obtain firm quotations and construction could commence a few days after you authorize the work.
The policy on quotations is as follows:

  • Projects under $5,000 require only one quotation. However at your request the Property Manager can obtain competitive quotes
  • Projects between $5,000 and $25,000 require three written quotations;
  • For projects above $25,000, formal tenders are called, generally with a complete tender package including drawings and specifications, specified closing date, and a supervised tender opening.

If you wish, quotations will be obtained from contractors you suggest provided they are prequalified (see “Can I select the contractor I want for my project?”). If you order equipment which must be installed within the building, please call us when the order is placed, rather than when it is received. This will allow us to confirm compatibility with the building’s electrical, mechanical and structural systems.

I want to use an outside architect or engineer. How do I go about it?
All design consultants working within the University must be under contract to the University. The University has a standard contract for these services, which F & S can execute on behalf of the departments.
If you want to hire a consultant, you should contact your Property Manager who will arrange a meetng with F & S staff to provide you with information on standard consultant fee structures and normal inclusions and exclusions from the fee structures. Once the department and the consultant agree on the price, F & S can execute the agreement. The department then works directly with the consultant on the renovation. However, the consultant must first submit the final design drawings to F & S for review to ensure compatibility with established University standards and services. During construction F & S will only conduct construction inspections as required to protect the University against broader liability issues. All costs of the project are the responsibility of the sponsoring department. The responsibility for the project is yours entirely and the issues discussed in answer to the question above (Why can I not contract directly for renovation work which I require?) should be carefully considered before taking steps to engage your own consultant.

Why should in house design services be used?
Familiarity with our University buildings, in terms of existing services, is a critical requirement for anyone designing renovations. This, coupled with the unique schedule(s) of the University and the knowledge of which people to contact within buildings as well as those responsible for various other services, makess it most practical for this work to be done in-house. Considerable monies and time would need to be spent to explain these to a consultant. This is particularly true for research intensive buildings. The full Fee Schedule for Architects and Engineers can be over 20% of the cost of construction for basic services for smaller projects. Other services required in addition to basic services, such as the initial investigation, may be an extra charge. For these reasons, smaller projects are completed in-house. Our staff know the buildings, whom to contact, the location of all related records, and the University procedures. Our fees are competitive and GST is not charged on in-house design.

Why do you charge for design?
Under the Building Code, renovations to University buildings require drawings stamped by engineers and/or architects. If a consultant were hired to complete the design, this would be charged to the project. In-house charges are comparable to those of outside consultants(see next two questions for details).

Why can I not contract directly for renovation work which I require?
There are a number of benefits for having a single area of responsibility across the University for construction services. Minimum quality and life cycle standards have been established for building materials, fixtures, and energy efficient systems to be used on campus. Utility services are shared among all building users and any unplanned disruption could be particularly critical for research facilities and life safety equipment. Control is required to ensure that all systems are compatible. Any work done within the University becomes a liability to the University. This includes responsibility for charges, services, disputes, and removal of liens incurred but not paid.
Perhaps the most convincing reason for not doing the work yourself is that under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, you are deemed the “constructor” which involves personal liability for any contravention of the Act. That is, you may become responsible for any personal injury to any workman or any other person hurt as a result of the construction. There is a penalty of up to $25,000 or one year in jail. Senior persons in the University, in a direct line of responsibility up to and including University governors, may also be charged. Facilities and Services are familiar with code and labour legislation, and undertake these responsibilities to protect the University’s interests. We have the experience to inspect contractors’ work for compliance to health and safety regulations. From our records of buildings and our many years of involvement on campus, we know what may be hidden in walls and are familiar with site specific fire code issues and important structural systems for the building components.
Please call us. Do not try to undertake work yourself.

What costs do we consider in our estimates and how are they compiled?
We sometimes hear that our costs are high compared to prices paid for home renovations. Institutional construction costs cannot be compared to home repair costs! Our contractors pay “Fair Wages”, they must carry liability insurance, transportation of equipment and materials to downtownToronto is expensive, and parking costs are also high. Our estimates must capture these higher labour and overhead costs. Often the initial estimate reflects your wish list, and its primary purpose is to establish a cost order of magnitude to establish whether funding is possible. In discussion with you, we fine-tune the project requirements to meet your budgets.
However, an estimate is not the same as a quotation. Actual cost is identified when the project is tendered.  This may be higher or lower than the estimate.

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