Water Design-Build Council Blog

Interview: Insights for Industry Organizations Pursuing a Design-Build Project

49671282_s.jpgAn interview with Ryan Adler of Crossland Heavy Construction.

Is your firm organized and prepared internally to pursue the next design-build project advertised? 

This question is one that engineering companies and contractors need to ask in today’s market. The reasons are simply this.  First, strategies to successfully compete in the water and wastewater sector for projects have changed. Second, and even more important, owners in the water sector, who are issuing the contracts, have predominantly change the way they want their projects built.

Once committed to using design-bid-build delivery, these owners now prefer the use of collaborative delivery methods. And, they’ve made these decisions as a result of gaining knowledge about successful projects and pursuing an education process about the best practices of these methods.  

What this means is that for their projects, they want experienced practitioners. What this means for industry practitioners is that organizations cannot successfully compete in today’s design-build market without addressing the following topics.

Are the upper management/decision-makers in industry organizations on board with changes needed to pursue design-build projects?  

In order for an organization to affectively pursue and win a design-build or CMAR project, complete buy-in from upper management and throughout all operational departments is a necessity. 

Individuals in the company’s leadership role need to understand not only the various risks associated within the collaborative delivery process, but the reward as well.  Educating the leaders within an organization on collaborative delivery methods prior to their pursuit will ultimately thwart uncertainties. 

The WDBC and DBIA offer multiple information sessions and training opportunities to further educate individuals within your organization.

Is the organization ready to undertake the risk of the pursuit?  

Pursuing a design-build or CMAR project is not only multifaceted, but can also be cumbersome and costly. In the development of project proposals, team members from marketing, estimating, conceptual design work, and management must all become involved in the decision-making process.

They grapple primarily with the risk aspect that these entities may have significant costs that are coupled with the uncertainty of the reward of the project. And they subsequently pose numerous questions in the decision-making process.

Is the risk worth the reward?  Is the client offering stipends?  Is the project budget in line with the additional costs that make the project worth taking the pursuit risk?  Does the owner have past experience with design-build or CMAR delivery?

Does the organizations project team members have the experience to manage a design-build or CMAR project? 

Managing any one of the collaborative delivery models used for a project is much different than managing a design-bid-build project. 

Previously, with a design-bid-build project, the organization’s project manager took charge once the contract was signed. In contrast to the DBB delivery method, the manager for a design-build project often integrates preconstruction services and engages with direct interactions with the owner/client, design team professionals, as well as potential equipment vendors. 

What is required of an organization to prepare their project management team?

These individuals must be skilled in the ability to properly manage the preconstruction services and coordinate the direct interactions that are involved with a Design-Build delivery method. 

All of these entities are managed differently, often creating new situations and challenges managers new to the design-build approach.  Establishing a team environment fosters the project’s successful delivery – is based on education and training. 

The WDBC and DBIA offer training and information sessions that support the education of managers in the implementation of the Best Practices of Design-Build.  These practices, when effectively applied from pursuit through delivery, will ensure a project’s success.

Is the organization’s estimating team ready to produce conceptual estimates? 

In order for an estimator to develop a conceptual estimate, the estimator needs to possess exceptional knowledge of the treatment process and work that needs put in place.  Typical conceptual designs include 30 percent conceptual drawings; the estimator and the design engineer fill in the blanks. 

Direct, streamlined communication between the estimator and the design engineer is necessary to ensure that the quality of the conceptual design and estimate are suitable for a complete proposal.  Frequent team meetings throughout the RFP phase ensure that the team is collaborative and is working through any uncertainties.  Face to face meetings are always best when working through the details of the conceptual design. 

What's the bottom line? 

Organizations that are new to collaborative delivery methods and their approaches need to be completely committed to continually pursing design-build projects.  This commitment starts with upper management and those selecting the driven individuals willing to do what it takes to implement best practices of Design-Build. 

Having a complete commitment throughout your organization, understanding the risk of the pursuit, being certain your project management and estimating team are prepared; and above all continually obtaining education on best practices are the key actions needed.


Topics: CMAR, water design-build project