22 Jan The cheap landscape lighting bid-Are you really saving money?
By Mike Gambino
I design high-end custom luxury landscape lighting systems, we are a design-build firm. And Subscribe to the absolute highest imaginable standards. While I can only build a certain number of creations each year, when a design client says, “We just want your plans, because we’re going to put this out to bid. We know that we can get it built for a lot less.” I know that this is not the client for me. The lowest cost and receiving a quality built project are on complete different ends of the spectrum.
They are telling me that they are merely focused on the price… not the quality. I have had some of my designs eventually built by the “low bidder.” The clients are so proud of themselves because they were able to obtain the project for 1/2 the price of what I would have charged. I often hear (initially), “we just cannot justify spending twice the money for the same thing.”
The “same thing” assumption is where they go wrong. First the low bidder decides that the system is “over engineered.” They proceed to purchase some generic materials over the internet. Mistake #1!
Next, they decide that the system is “too big!
This same hack, deleted some unique design details (to reduce material costs) as “unneeded” (read that as: too complicated, time consuming, and beyond my capabilities). But remember, all of the competitors bids were based upon these details being included. He is remarkable at degrading a project to fit his low-ball bids & construction methods.
Deviations from the plans in the lighting systems fixture types and quantities, downsizing cable and using less of it to save money or installing the transformers in the incorrect locations, results in a system that does not perform to it’s designed potential. This same builder, decided that he could put the conduits where he pleased, installing them at the wrong depth, incorrect angles, and even omitting conduit all together because no one will know until someone slices through them with a shovel. This system, when properly installed is supposed to effectively and efficiently illuminate the property. Yet, the builder chose to totally disregard the specifications and the design clients thought they received a comparable bid… but, it’s not quite the same thing so far, is it?
Special stainless steel, brass and copper components were specified and of course this was not followed, and in a short period of time, the fixtures will begin to corrode making it impossible to even replace light bulbs. But it “looks like the same thing…” – not quite!
How does someone get away with this you ask? Well oftentimes these very same system installers are landscapers or electricians that often work for general contractors (GC) & developers who build “spec homes” or custom homes but do production work. Since the GC is always about staying within budget & saving a buck (thus making more for themselves), these low-ball installers “have a home.” The quality of the landscape lighting system rarely matches that of the home. The installer justifies their practices with comments like, “I do this all the time,” this is standard in our industry,” “you didn’t pay for that,” “it’s okay, I’ve done this before.”
People actually buy into this line, and the myth is perpetuated. These general trades also do landscaping or electrical work for commercial properties and industrial complexes!!! Have you EVER seen a beautiful industrial complex landscape lighting system?? Do it fast & do it cheap!
Over the life of the property, the client will end up paying for a lot of unwarranted repairs to correct rusting fixtures and transformers, failing light bulbs, dim lights due to faulty system engineering. They’ll never be able to correct structural deficiencies without having to replace the whole system.
If only it had been done correctly in the beginning! That few thousand dollars that they saved by down grading the originally designed specifications during construction, seems like it might have been worth it now, doesn’t it?!
You wouldn’t let an electrician put undersized wiring in your home, lest you have a fire. You wouldn’t let the plumber install undersized sewer lines, so that you can experience sewage back-ups. But property owners allow the low bidder landscape lighter to “justify their own modifications to the defined plans.” It’s like placing the fox in charge of the hen house!
But, like the design clients said when they insisted on putting the project out to bid…
All landscape lighting systems are the same, and mine looks just like your plans – WRONG AGAIN!
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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