August 3, 2010
by: Basima Rum Assoc. AIA

Event: What You Say and What They See: A Client Perspective on Winning Proposals
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.26.10
Speakers: Frances Halsband, FAIA — Principal, Kliment Halsband Architects; Stephen Yablon, AIA — Principal, Stephen Yablon Architect; Mark Gordon, AIA — Director for Design, NYU Strategic Assessment, Planning and Design; Faith Rose, RA — Senior Design Liaison, NYC Department of Design + Construction
Moderator: Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — Chief Marketing Officer, Dattner Architects
Organizers: AIANY Marketing & PR Committee

We have all come across poorly crafted Request for Proposals (RFP) from potential clients. Frances Halsband, FAIA, sees this as a missed opportunity for the client to market their projects to architects. “This is their chance to make the project sound great, communicate goals, and get architects excited about their project,” she said. NYU and the NYC Department of Design + Construction (DDC) understand how to do that, but “not all institutions or agencies have a sophisticated proposal process as our two client panelists,” according to moderator Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP. Since the actual content of the RFP is beyond the architect’s purview, this panel of experienced clients and architects discussed how to create a winning proposal.

Overall, proposals should convey the firm’s understanding of the client’s issues and the process the team will bring to the project. “The client wants to know that you are listening to them and can solve their problems,” said the DDC’s Faith Rose, RA. The clients on the panel stated they do not want design solutions in response to their RFPs. They would prefer analytical approaches and appreciate firms communicating their excitement about specific aspects of the project. In cases where an RFP warrants the inclusion of a design concept, the panelists suggested that more than one good idea be submitted by a firm.

The experience of the team being proposed is crucial, especially in the case of the project manager. The resumé should convey relevant experience, and the project approach should allow the voice of the project manager to shine through. A successful proposal demonstrates that the project manager is capable of handling the job.

When responding to an RFP, the panel agreed that proposals should be brief, clear, honest, jargon-free, and focused on the client and the potential project.

Basima Rum, Assoc. AIA, is the director of marketing at Dattner Architects.


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