In the last 25 years, the design-build delivery method has caught on with not just contractors but also government officials, customers and jurisdictions across the country. The method is now allowed on at least some types of public projects in all but two states, Iowa and North Dakota.
Wisconsin is the most recent state to come around to design-build, though as with many states, the momentum is in increments. Last August, the state enacted a bill that required its Department of Transportation to maintain an inventory of at least five highway projects that could be awarded to design-build teams. The bill, Act 18, also created a new DOT department focused on streamlining project delivery, promoting efficiency, and facilitating design-build project delivery on transportation projects.
While design-build has made impressive inroads, there is still work to be done to maintain its foothold, said Richard Thomas, director of state and local legislative affairs of the Design-Build Institute of America. State legislatures generally turn over every decade, and freshman legislators need to be educated about the benefits the alternative delivery method has for government-funded projects.
DBIA studies have shown that design-build costs land around 6.1% less than traditional design-bid-build, with a delivery speed of around 33.5% faster. With benefits like these, it might be assumed that states have long been on board with the design-build concept. However, that isn't always the case, as officials have pushed back due to what they consider a lack of historical data around the method and a lack of transparency.
On a recent DBIA podcast, Thomas gave an overview of the legislative successes of the past year, starting with historic legislation enacted late last year in New York City that gave design-build authority to some of the city's public entities. The law authorizes certain agencies, which include the city's DOT and Department of Design and Construction, to award design-build contracts for projects that meet specific criteria.
Thomas predicted a "design-build Renaissance" in New York City in the next 10 years, with massive projects on the docket including those that are part of Gov. Cuomo's recently announced $275 billion infrastructure plan. Just as crucial, the city's agencies that have the authority to use design-build have shown "the willingness to use it," he said.
Many New York City officials have been asking state lawmakers for the ability to use the design-build method for some time now, claiming that it can shave a significant amount of time and money from their project budgets. The city's DOT said that allowing the delivery method to be used on just one project — the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway — could save $300,000.
Thomas also noted other legislative highlights and trends. For instance, California and Washington state have led the rise of progressive design-build, which facilitates involvement of the design-build team during the earliest stages of the owner’s project development, ensuring they are part of the project team developing design solutions. This promotes the greatest amount of collaboration between the three key players in a construction contract — the owner, the designer and the contractor, according to DBIA.
Over the past several years, the water/wastewater sector has been steadily adopting progressive design-build, and now the transportation sector is starting to do the same, Thomas said.
Other states with major design-build initiatives underway include a grassroots movement to allow the use of alternative delivery methods on Iowa public projects and legislation in Nebraska that would expand design-build to wastewater projects.