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Request for Proposals or Tender Brief Guidance Notes

The following guidance notes are designed to help you write effective pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ's), tender briefs and request for proposals (RFP's) for heritage interpretation projects

All we ask is that if you are looking to hire an interpretive expert for a heritage interpretation project, please include HDC on your tender list!

If you are planning a heritage interpretation project you may need to hire in the expertise and skills of a professionally trained and qualified interpretive expert.

The key to finding, evaluating, and hiring a heritage interpretation expert with the proven expertise, training and qualifications you require is to send out pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), a tender brief or a request for proposal (RFP).

The aim of this short guide is to help you effectively plan and write a PQQ, tender brief, request for proposal or (RFP) to send out in your search for professionally qualified heritage interpretation expert. It covers all of the key elements that should be included in this important step towards your projects successful completion.

We hope that you find this guide useful, however if you get stuck, call us, we will be glad to help.

Pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQ's), tender briefs and request for proposals (RFP's)

Once you have agreed a specific interpretation project, and identified a budget, you will need to determine who will research, consult, master plan, write, design, pre-test, fabricate, install and post-test your interpretation.

But how do you find and select a competent firm that can do all those tasks to your standards? That’s where the pre qualification questionnaire, tender brief or request for proposal comes in!

Preparation is the key! The success of a relatively problem-free project is directly related to the effectiveness of the selection and evaluation criteria you employ to select your interpretive expert.
The first step is to compile a list of interpretive firms (please make sure you include HDC!).

An hour spent on the internet searching using terms such as “heritage interpretation consultant”, "interpretive master planning consultant", "interpretive design consultant", "interpretation copywriters", "interpretive panels" and so on, should result in a list of the leading firms in the relevant field.

Alternatively you can visit one of the professional interpretive bodies such as:

UK - Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI)

UK - The Museum Association

UK - The Tourism Society

USA – National Association for Interpretation (NAI)

Europe - Interpret Europe

Spain - Asociación para la Interpretación del Patrimonio (AIP)

Canada – Interpretation Canada

Australia - Interpretation Australia Association (IAA)

New Zealand - Interpretation Network New Zealand (INNZ)

For the potential contractors to give you a proper proposal and cost, they need to know exactly what it is you want done.

Your RFP details the project needs for them to bid on, and the more specific the better.

It also details the levels of experience and qualifications you are looking for in a contractor.

Once a firm receives your RFP, and they review the qualification requirements of the bidder, the scope of work, budget, and other project needs, they will then send you a proposal to do the work the RFP asked for.

But your RFP also needs to tell them how you want the proposal to be developed – what topics you want presented in what manner (photos, outlines, etc.), when you need the proposal, and other related issues.

Contracting Interpretive Services – Rules of Thumb!

If you haven’t written a PQQ, brief or RFP before, it is easy to leave out some important items.

It is the goal of this guide to help make sure that your RFP covers all the bases and works as an efficient tool to help you find and select the right consultant for firm for your project.

Before you can write an RFP for an interpretive project, you need to know some basic information that will help your prepare the RFP, such as what various kinds of interpretive projects or media actually cost, what needs to be considered in the planning, design or fabrication of interpretive media, how long the project should actually take, and related issues. The following rules of thumb will help you in this area.

Rules of Thumb for Museum/Visitor Center Exhibit Projects

How much do exhibits actually cost?
This is probably a question you should have asked before you asked for a grant, but if you didn’t, here is the general rule of thumb for budgeting/planning museum exhibit projects.

The rule of thumb for budgeting exhibits is £385 sq.ft. of floor space for the exhibit room or gallery.

This is based on 2009 cost averages and can change depending on the kinds of exhibits you have.

Generally type 1, 2a and 2b and exhibits cost more than type 3 graphic and flat work exhibits.

The figure is an average that would provide a fair mix of all types of exhibits, from hands-on to non-interactive.

25% of the total cost is the design fee.

15% of the total cost is for delivery and installation.

That means that if you have £1.00 to spend on exhibits, that £1.00 will buy £0.60 worth of actual exhibit.

This cost estimate does NOT include high cost interactive media, such as touch-screen computers and the programs that would go with it. This would be an additional line item. The same is true for video and related high-tech equipment.

How much space will I need for exhibits – and visitors?
One thing to remember about exhibits, and visitors, is that both need space. The exhibits need physical space, and the visitors need both physical and psychological space. If the exhibit room seems too crowded, even with great exhibits, the visitors might not want to stay.

The magic number to think about is that visitors need a MINIMUM of 25 sq.ft of floor space per visitor in an exhibit room. That’s a 5-foot box with the visitor in the middle of it. More space is better. Remember, if your audience feels too crowded, they will quickly move on and not enjoy the experience.

Remember when planning space for exhibits to plan room for storage and access for replacing or repairing installed equipment.

Also remember that the exhibit will take up more space than you think. Visitors usually view exhibits from several feet away from the exhibit. So there is a “buffer zone” of about 3-feet away from the exhibits where visitors don’t stand. That buffer zone takes up physical space.

It is likely that your RFP will also need to consider a number of other requirements such as:

Are you going to need changing exhibits (that reflect seasonal changes or thematic changes)? For example, if your visitors are drawn form the same market year after year, then you will need to have exhibits that can change regularly. If, on the other hand, your visitors are tourists that you might never see again, your exhibits won’t need to change as often. If you do plan for changing exhibits, such as seasonal changes, you may be buying 4 exhibits (one for each season) instead of one exhibit, so those costs may be higher.

Warranties and guarantees. You will need to be sure to ask for a warranty for your exhibits once they are installed. The typical museum exhibit warranty covers the exhibits for one year, and usually covers such things as items coming unglued from the exhibits, faulty audio-visual equipment, fading photos or graphics or other problems. It is good to check with other museums to see that kinds of warranties they have had from past projects, so you know what to ask for in your RFP.

Time and more time. You should know about how much time to ask for museum or visitor center exhibit projects. In general for an average size visitor center, you should plan at least one year from the time the project starts to the day the exhibits are installed. Larger projects – more time. Usually there are 3 months for the planning and design phases, 5-6 months for construction, and a month for delivery and installation. Plus add a month or two for any “problems” that might come up. So a year is a safe bet. If it comes in earlier than that – celebrate.

Plan in your time for reviewing draft designs. You will need to think about the time (and staff) you will need to review draft exhibit designs, and you will have to proof read and sign off on any exhibit text (check for spelling, correct dates, etc.). It is a good idea to review exhibits at the contractors shop before they are delivered. That way and problems can be fixed in the shop.

Plan for the installation. Remember that your exhibits will have to fit in your exhibit room or gallery. Make sure that they can fit in the door to your gallery and aren’t higher than your ceiling.

Maintenance Manual? As part of the RFP you should also ask for the contractor to provide you a maintenance manual. This includes information such as what kind of cleaning agents to use on your exhibits. They should also give you a list of suppliers where you can buy replacement parts (bulbs, electrical components, etc.) should you need to repair exhibits after the warranty expiries.

Rules of Thumb for Outdoor Interpretive Panel Projects

Some of the same rules of thumb for planning for exhibit projects apply to planning outdoor panel projects, but there are some differences. There are lots of issues you will need to sort out BEFORE you write your RFP for Interpretive Panels.

How many panels do I want/need?

You will need to determine just how many interpretive panels you need, where you want them to be located, and what size you want each panel to be. Location is an important consideration in determining just what materials and framing system your panels need to be fabricated from.

What are my options for Panel Materials? Which is best?

One of the main issues you will need to consider is just what kinds of materials you want the panels to be made of. Some of your choices include: Fiberglas embedment, high pressure laminated panels, enamel or porcelain, resin impregnated wood, plus a variety of other material options.

What about Panel Warranties?

Many of the outdoor panel design and fabrication companies provide a one-year to 25-year warranty on their products. The warranty covers such issues as fading and de-lamination of panel materials. Look at the warranties or guarantees for each kind of panel material carefully to decide on which material is best for you and which to ask for in your RFP.

What are the average costs per panel that I should budget for?

As a general guide, a total all in cost of a 2’ x 3’ fiberglass interpretive panel designed for 15-year lifespan (the US National Park Service Standard) will cost around $3,000.00 or £1,500.00 per panel at 2007 prices. All in costs should include: research, copywriting and design, fabrication of the panel, fabrication of the frame / mounting system and shipping but not installation. Remember, if a company tells you that a panel is $800.00 or £400 that cost is unlikely to include one or more of the elements described above or they are using sub-standard materials.

If you don’t need an interpretive panel to last 15 or 25 years which are more expensive), then consider one that will last 5 years and cost less. If you budget for the total cost per panel – final design, fabrication, shipping, and aluminum frame system, the total cost could be between $3000.00 and $4000.00 per panel. If you have expensive artwork done, that cost could drive the total panel costs even higher. Of course this cost will vary greatly depending on the complexity of the design, the sign fabrication materials you select, the kind of warranty you want, and other variables.

How long should a panel project take?

Panel projects should move more quickly than museum exhibit projects. Once you have determined the content of each panel, and have hired the consultants to do the design and fabrication, an average time from the time the project starts with the consultant, to the time the panels are delivered to you should be about three or four months, depending on the complexity of the project. Remember – this is an average rule of thumb.
What should I have on my Panel?

The most important rule when designing an interpretive panel is; Don’t overload your panel!

Visitors will only spend about 15-20 seconds with your panel so keep the text short (about 100 words).

Use Tilden’s Principals (provoke, relate and reveal your message).

Keep the graphics or photos simple and powerful.

Pre-test the draft panels with you visitors to make sure they understand the concepts and the vocabulary.

Remember the adage: Measure twice and cut once! Double check everything and get it right the first time!

Rules of Thumb for Interpretive Planning Projects

The rules of thumb for interpretive planning project can vary a lot based on the particular kind of interpretive planning required. Here are some general guidelines.

What should be in an interpretive plan?
This will vary from project to project, but in general you will need to consider these issues before you write the scope of work for your RFP:

What are the objectives that my interpretive plan needs to accomplish?

How do I intend to use the final document (implementation of new products and services, for future grant requests, for other fund-raising programs, or other functions)?

What services will I or my staff provide (maps, resource experts, etc.)?

What is the average cost of an interpretive plan?
The costs of interpretive planning depends on the scope of services needed. Here are some general examples:

Developing an interpretive master plan for a park, nature preserve, historic site, etc. between $6000.00 and $8000.00 (plus any consultant travel expenses).

Developing an Interpretive Exhibit Plan - $6000.00 and up depending on the size of the exhibit room or gallery.

Developing an Interpretive Self-guiding trail or tour route plan (for about a ½ mile loop trail) - $4000.00 (includes developing 7-10 trail stops with draft copy).

Developing an auto driving tour CD (production ready master), including all interpretive planning, writing, and sound studio work – about $1000.00/finished minute.

These costs are subject to change based on specific project needs.

How long does it take to do an interpretive plan?
On average, for most park or nature center interpretive plans, the time to complete the project is 3-4 months. Time frames for other types of interpretive planning will vary depending on the specific scope of work.

How do I find a good Interpretive Planner?
There are many consultants in the marketplace that label themselves as interpretive experts. Some are very good, however a great many simply fail to measure up to the international standards developed through years of research and study in all the relevant disciplines of this specialist subject. Some consultants will quote “30 years worth of experience”, however this means nothing if it means 30 years experience of doing it wrong! The safe measure is to look at qualifications, however these can be misleading too; Consultants quoting Full Members of Association of Heritage Interpretation (AHI) is not an effective measure of ability as anyone can be a full member if they pay the fee. Internationally recognised qualifications and experience that you should be looking for are:

B.S. or M.S degree or higher majoring in Interpretive Services

University level training in Interpretive Planning - you should ask what, if any courses the consultant has taken to learn how to do interpretive planning. If no university training in interpretive planning, where did you learn how to do it?

Certified Interpretive Planner qualification (send a copy of certificates) with 5 or more years of dedicated experience in Interpretive Master Planning.

Certified Interpretive Trainer qualification (send a copy of certificates) with 5 or more years of experience in planning and delivery of introductory and advanced interpretive training courses (3-5 days in length). Send examples of your courses and topics you have taught in the past year.

Graduate level training/courses in Survey Research design for recreational sites, facilities and agencies, with specific experience in conducting evaluation projects for interpretive programs, services, or media. List training and background in survey research, samples of recent survey research projects, and samples of survey instruments you have developed for interpretive sites.

In additions you should seek experts that have:

Years of experience in interpretive planning. Usually a minimum of 5 years.

Their approach to doing interpretive planning – what does their plan cover, etc.

Their working relationship with you – how involved do you want to be in the project?

Are they a National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Planner?

Plan time for an interview with bidders (in person or by phone)

Ask for samples from past projects to look at (this should be in your RFP) if you feel that this will help you understand just what the finished plan will look like. Oftentimes “products speak for themselves”!

Request for Proposal Template Examples

This section of the resource guide is designed to provide you with sample templates of different types of Interpretive Project request for proposals. The contents are taken from other “good examples” of RFP’s and reflects the basic elements that any interpretive services RFP should contain.

Of course you can add any other sections to your RFP to reflect specific agency needs, standards or requirements!