Tendering and bidding are an integral part of the building services industry’s efforts in securing building contracts and ensuring future profitability. Our translation experts explain why effective communication in any language is so important, but especially when targeting lucrative foreign contracts.

Securing new building contracts is an essential goal for the building services industry; however, the cost of bidding and tendering itself can prove to be a significant overhead. In 2015,

specialist consultants MarketingWorks joined forces with Professor Will Hughes of the University of Reading to investigate the tendering habits of building companies. This survey of 179 UK construction firms – including 60 main contractors – highlighted the financial burden that tendering puts on the sector.

The research found that, based on winning one in every five projects, firms could be spending in excess of 22% of operational turnover on bidding and tendering. Extrapolating this figure to the entire £110bn UK construction industry, it would be fair to conclude that between £2.5bn and £3bn is spent each year on just bidding for work.

Winning bids and tenders – and therefore securing new work – is obviously the lynchpin of a successful company and in this article our experts consider how businesses can work smarter to ensure that every bid counts.

Anticipating future developments

Although the UK is currently in the process of leaving the European Union, the present requirements stipulate that tender submissions should be made in an official language of one of the EU member nations. When the Brexit negotiations are completed, English may not necessarily still be one of these languages, which means it could be a wise decision to translate certain regularly needed tender documents even now, to ensure your company gets ahead of the curve. Anticipating this change and being prepared for it could increase the likelihood of winning both public and private sector EU contracts in the coming months/years.

What can set you apart?

Are you playing to your strengths? Each company’s brand is initially developed to appeal to a niche area of the market and satisfy a specific demand. But when was the last time you took a step back and looked at the bigger picture? It can be easy to get fixated on what the competition are doing, in the process taking your eye off the ball as regards the direction of your own business.

Take the time to consider your unique selling points. Communication is such a key area, so be sure to properly communicate your strengths. Nobody would expect Kier Group or Balfour Beatty to compete based on having the lowest tender price, as such large “brands” focus on other selling points. Your company may be smaller, but the approach is the same: if you aren’t going to be the cheapest, then explain the added value you can offer.

Jargon busting

The language used by the building services industry is often very technical in nature and littered with initialisms and acronyms, which can make it seem like a different language altogether. BIM is a good example of this, as, although it is an integral part of the industry, its invented ‘BIM language’ is largely inaccessible to those working outside the field.

If you consider the need for clarity and conciseness in tender documents, submissions which aren’t easily understood or leave grey areas that are open to misinterpretation will not be suitable for purpose. Therefore, it is imperative to include definitions and explain in detail how your project will deliver BIM Level 2, for example, not merely the fact that it will do so.

Types of documents

Tenders for contracts such as for equipment supply, construction, demolition, enabling works, etc. all require extensive documentation.

It is advisable to break down tender documents into a series of packages, each with its own design drawings and specifications ready for issue by the main contractor to potential sub-contractors. Supplying them in this way makes it easier for the contractor to price and also simpler for the client to compare and contrast them.

The required documentation can include:

Tender return slip

The tender return slip should include details of the contract, key information such as the return address and a tender checklist.

Completed tender pricing document

Depending on the project, a completed tender pricing document is sometimes replaced by a contract sum analysis, which breaks the price down into a form that lets the client to analyse and compare it with other tenders.

Schedule of rates

In its simplest form, a schedule of rates is a list setting out the staff, labour, plant hire rates that are used as the basis for pricing.

Preliminary construction phase plan

The construction phase plan (CPP) outlines the arrangements for managing all significant health and safety risks associated with the construction of the project. It sets out the health and safety arrangements and site rules, taking into account any industrial activities taking place on site.

Design proposals

Design proposals should include the drawings, reports, models and statements which have been prepared to present the recommended design solution for a given need.

Construction professionals who may be asked to provide design proposals include:

  • Architects
  • Architectural technologists
  • Engineers
  • Contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Suppliers


This refers to the documentation detailing the sequence in which a series of tasks must be carried out for a project (or part of a project) to be completed.

Procedures to be adopted

Includes procurement procedures and cost management procedures.

Demonstration of capability

For example, design capability, systems used and so on.

A BIM execution plan

The Government Construction Strategy, published in May 2011, stipulates that at least a fully collaborative 3D BIM – with all project and asset information, documentation and data in electronic form – is required.

Key project personnel

Ensure the availability of up-to-date CVs for your key personnel.

Management organisation

A clear, concise explanation of the bidding company and its organisation.

Plant and labour

It is necessary to breakdown the resources required and their availability.

Prior experience and references.

Next steps

As mentioned above, building services firms could be spending in excess of 22% of operational turnover on bidding and tendering, which highlights the importance of this activity.

As a highly experienced and reputable translation service provider, Albion Languages can help you optimise your tendering documentation to ensure it presents your company in the best light. With extensive experience in serving the building services industry, our real estate translation services team understand its specific language and the time constraints it is under. To speak to one of our experts in more detail, please get in touch.