Water Design-Build Council Blog

What Decisions are Needed to Prepare Your Organization to Use Design-Build Delivery?

The questions most often raised by utilities or agencies who want to pursue design-build delivery for their pending project range from “What are the decisions I need to make in the procurement process?” to “How do I prepare my organization to make the right decisions about the best collaborative delivery approach for my project?” Answers to these questions, which were addressed recently in an education session with a large metropolitan utility, also provide the opportunity for us to share the results of WDBC’s 2017 research on what public officials say they have learned from pursuing a design-build project.

Many agencies and utilities have projects that are either immediately ready to procure a design-builder or are on the horizon (likely approved within their capital program with a designated time frame). Normally, owners embark upon a commonly used approach to launch immediately into the procurement process. However, WDBC’s research reinforces the need to examine more than just the procurement steps. There are other decisions that need to be made far in advance of this action. Officials and managers strongly recommend that the first decision a utility should make is to educate its staff about the differences in the delivery methods and the best practices for preparing for the procurement process. In making this decision, owners recognize that education is the key to developing a collaborative approach for a successful project.

The other important decisions that need to be made by the utility and agency, which were identified by both the owners and managers in our research and in numerous education sessions, include the following:

  • Having a process to prioritize the important project components that are needed to achieve success
  • Assigning management roles and responsibilities to available staff and knowing when (and how) to identify that additional resources are needed, followed by understanding how the overall work process occurs with an owner’s advisor
  • Developing an evaluation process for the various collaborative delivery methods, and knowing how to select the best one to implement a specific project or if there are different criteria for different projects such as a treatment plant expansion, consolidating three pumping stations, or designing and constructing a new conveyance system
  • Including local contractors in the available work and addressing MBE/WBE requirements
  • Understanding the balance of risks that a utility should assume, and which ones should be allocated to the design-builder
  • Addressing asset management in the transition process 

During WDBC education sessions, instructors use the WDBC Water and Wastewater Design-Build Handbook as their core resource and take each organization through a defined approach that examines common scenarios and addresses the various questions and topics presented above in greater detail. Coupled with our ongoing research that includes lessons learned by owners, WDBC is continually striving to support the industry by establishing best practices and sharing them through its many resources and education programs. If you are considering collaborative delivery for your next project, are you prepared to make the decisions needed for success? 

With nearly 30 years of experience in the water/wastewater industry, Linda Hanifin Bonner provides a unique blend of organization, governance, and financial management experience to the Water Design-Build Council. Dr. Hanifin Bonner’s professional career has been dedicated to developing pragmatic and strategic oriented approaches through education to the factors influencing water and wastewater industry projects. Originally an environmental planner for Montgomery County, MD, her work over the years has been supporting federal, state, and local government agencies, the engineering community, and private industry.


Topics: design-build