When bidding a project, subsurface or latent site conditions that are not immediately apparent can massively impact the costs of performance to general contractors. Were contractors required to bid on projects without any information on pre-existing conditions, they would need either to be assured that any additional costs would be reimbursed by the owner, or to include significant contingencies for subsurface conditions in their bids. For owners, these options result in either increased risk or increased cost—neither of which is particularly palatable. Owners therefore implement several contractual tools to minimize these risks and costs.
One of these tools is providing bidders with a report on latent conditions, often called a “geotechnical data report” or “GDR”, but otherwise shifting as much of the subsurface-related risk as possible to the contractor. In theory, these reports permit contractors to appropriately adjust their contingencies for latent conditions, thus saving owners money. However, several independent and thorny issues arise where site reports provided by the owner are either inconsistent with or silent on the actual conditions of a project site. Hence owners often include disclaimers with these reports, such as noting that the report is for “informational purposes only” or that the report is “not part of the contract documents."