The Design-Build Approach
WWD Editorial Director Neda Simeonova recently spoke with Peter Tunnicliffe, president of the Water Design-Build Council, about the benefits of design-build project delivery.
Neda Simeonova: For a municipality considering a design-build project, what are the key benefits of design-build project delivery?
Peter Tunnicliffe: Benefits of design-build delivery include schedule efficiency, cost efficiency and the ability of the owner to participate in scope advancement and to understand the cost implications of design decisions. Schedule efficiency is an important aspect of this form of project delivery, as it brings more jobs to the local economy more quickly than conventional design-bid-build project delivery.
Simeonova: What are some pitfalls associated with design-build project delivery, and how can a municipality avoid them?
Tunnicliffe: One of the primary pitfalls is when an owner spends too much time and effort advancing a preliminary design and issuing a fixed-price design-build procurement. Although this can seem like a conservative approach, the end results—as demonstrated by many water and wastewater design-build procurements—are as follows:
The schedule for the project ends up taking as long as a conventional project delivery, or longer when the procurement document development time is included; the actual approach selected by the owner is different than the preliminary design concept, resulting in inefficient re-engineering; and the owner has to work with a new team after they have spent considerable time and effort with the procurement development team.
An owner can avoid these pitfalls by taking advantage of the “progressive” form of design-build delivery, where the owner works with the selected design-builder from project inception and advances the design scope collaboratively with a full understanding of the cost and schedule implications of design options.
Simeonova: What type of utility would be a good candidate for a design-build project?
Tunnicliffe: Most municipal public works facilities are good candidates for design-build projects. Depending on the nature of the work, there may be multiple measurement and payment provisions, early release packages or permitting constraints that precede construction work but allow long lead-item procurements to take place. The skill of the design-builder is in delivering applied innovation to the owner’s specific situation and generating added value.
Simeonova: What is the impact of funding on water/wastewater projects, and how can design-build address it?
Tunnicliffe: According to the U.S. EPA, Government Accountability Office and Water Infrastructure Network, the U.S. faces a $300- to $500-billion funding gap over 20 years between what is needed to upgrade and repair the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure and what is being spent, so there is a greater need for efficiency in project delivery.
Design-build project delivery promotes innovation and efficiencies in the project’s schedule. In addition to quicker project implementation and completion, design-build also allows contracts to be awarded on overall best value and provides single-point accountability, resulting in fewer change orders, claims and disputes.
Simeonova: Can design-build projects accelerate the effectiveness of the economic stimulus package? Why or why not?
Tunnicliffe: As municipalities choose which projects to implement, their decisions will be based on which projects are most urgent and which projects can be started and completed with the most economic impact, both in terms of jobs created and value to local and state economies.
In general, design-build project delivery allows every project to be “shovel ready” within 120 days, provided land and permitting issues are cleared. Design-build project delivery also allows work beyond engineering to commence rapidly, stimulating manufacturing in a number of sectors. Water and wastewater facilities’ design-build work can positively impact more industry sectors of our economy than almost any other type of work.