Achieving a successful design-build project requires a collaborative environment that begins with the owner’s commitment to be the leader of internal preparations. Before initiating the procurement process or identifying the delivery method to be used, key decisions need to be made by the owner.
The Water Design-Build Council's ongoing research into factors contributing to successful design-build projects along with feedback from owners who have attended our education sessions have provided critical information on what crucial steps in the preparation process are often overlooked or neglected.
Taking the time to pursue these five steps will result in a true collaborative effort and a successful project.
Why would an owner overlook these preparation steps? The habitual approach for agencies and utilities is to declare their intention to pursue a design-build delivery method for their project and then proceed to develop procurement documents to get a contractor on board. Taking this abbreviated approach creates a huge gap in the data that is important for making other decisions about the water infrastructure project.
This critical information forms the basis for determining what aspect of the project has greater priority over the others, as well as for detailing what should be integrated into the procurement documents. Industry firms who are in pursuit of the owner’s envisioned design-build project, and not engaging in the best practices promoted by the WDBC, can also perpetuate this abbreviated process by taking shortcuts.
The dynamics embedded in this design-bid-build process lead to a non-collaborative environment.
The following steps to establish a collaborative environment are not complicated. Through the education process, often the realization of their importance becomes clear.
- Become educated about the design-build delivery models. With this step, all participants involved in the program will gain knowledge about the decision-making components and the integration of collaboration.
- Assess the external and internal sources that influence the outcome of the project. This should also involve all facets of the organization: managers, procurement, legal, and operations & maintenance. To collaboratively examine how these various sources affect the project allows the project team to see what, if any, additional resources may be needed to support the organization.
- Agree on project goals and priorities. This step asks the team to clearly define and reach agreement on the organization’s goals for the project and the project’s priorities that ultimately become the drivers, which then feed into the decision-making process to select the desired delivery method.
- Agree on the desired level of involvement for all parties involved in the project. Clarifying the roles and responsibilities from the owner to the design-builder lays the foundation for the collaborative process of the project.
- Allocate risk. As the team works through the risk matrix, these results will identify which risk components the owner is best able to assume and which ones are best allocated to the design-build firm.
Working through these steps – together with the guidance provided in the Water and Wastewater Design-Build Handbook – will give owners the foundation for a collaborative and successful design-build project.