Follow these Simple Steps When Selecting your Design-Build Team
In my 15 years of working on design-build teams, particularly with higher education clients, I’ve seen first-hand how this project delivery method can produce high-quality design at a reasonable cost when it’s done right—or poorly executed projects when it’s not. Public colleges and universities in particular have little wiggle room on project funding, so it’s in their best interest to set up a selection process that works in their favor. Here’s how institutions can increase the odds of getting a project that’s a success for all parties involved by engaging a design-build team.
Provide a stipend for design deliverables commensurate with the level of effort required. This includes a higher stipend when full schematic design and engineering are required, or lower if the submittal is a conceptual design. It’s a classic case of “you get what you pay for.” Experienced, well-managed design firms often turn down non-stipend requests for proposals because they’re too risky, shrinking the pool of qualified firms to compete for the project.
Limit the number of drawings or deliverables to encourage an appropriate level of design effort during the competition phase. Firms that go overboard on the design deliverables set unrealistic expectations that such effort is reasonable or necessary for a given budget, which can lead to problems with delivery during project execution, such as errors on drawings that were rushed.
Hold one or two confidential meetings with bidding teams between the release of the RFP and the submittal due date. These meetings give clients a “sneak peek” of how designs and deliverables are evolving to ensure that they’ll meet the project’s scope. Design-build teams benefit from the chance to clarify scope and goals with the client, resulting in better projects from the get-go.
Instead of “hard bid” or lowest-cost selection, opt for a points-based “best value” process that awards or deducts points for bidding the project under or over a given dollar figure, respectively. Points can be earned for other aspects of the submittal, such as design solution or lifecycle costs. This process leads to a more realistic understanding of what a particular project costs to execute, and allows clients a fairer comparison of the merits and drawbacks of the options submitted.
DLR Group’s track record on higher-education design-build projects, such as our Southwest College School of Career and Technical Education at LACCD in California, is rooted in our commitment to working with contractors and clients in delivering high-quality projects at a cost that clients can bear. With the right selection and procurement processes, and willing project partners, any higher education institution can do the same.