New design/build initiatives:

The traditional world of construction is design/bid/build, and most contractors have fallen into that comfort zone; an alternative is design/build. Contractors are finding out they need to learn just what this not-so-new term truly means to them and their future success.

“The world is changing, and as more design/build gets done and more research is done about the advantages of design/build, the world of construction will be heading in that direction. Design/build is growing quickly and spreading to new areas in design and construction. The percentages of work done by design/build vary by geographic region and type of work, but it is clear that the amount of design/build work is dramatically increasing across the board. This consistent growth pattern is more important than the exact percentage of work being performed using design/build,” said Walker “Lee” Evey, president, Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA).

According to Evey, the three main issues of design/bid/build are cost overrun, schedule delay and litigation. Numerous studies have shown design/build projects to be on average 6 percent less expensive, 12 percent faster for construction and 33 percent faster for overall project time, plus having consistently higher quality and far less litigation. At the same time, profit margins are typically higher for those who use design/build. Such figures make design/build appealing to contractors who find themselves worrying about those three issues on a daily basis.

Additionally, the DBIA is beginning to use the teaming approach through new initiatives. It is implementing training for owners, teaching them about a process called source selection, which uses two distinct phases within the overall process to select contractors. The first phase is called a qualifications-based selection. It involves a review of the teams, regarding, for example, the past performance and experience, which includes looking at things like how recently their work together has been done, its relevance to the forthcoming project and the quality of the accomplished work.

“This first phase is intended to identify the most highly qualified teams based on their demonstrated capability to perform the work. DBIA teaches that, as a result of this first phase of the source selection, owners not select more than three teams. These three most highly qualified teams are then the teams that have the opportunity to compete in phase two of the source selection.

“The phase two selection of the final winning team utilizes a best value selection procedure. By best value, we mean a selection that is based on the best overall mix of proposal features that results in the best overall value to the owner. DBIA teaches such techniques as building to budget in order to best meet the owner’s goals, challenges, problems and constraints. We teach owners how to best communicate their requirements in terms of their goals, challenges, problems and constraints rather than telling the teams how to accomplish their jobs.”

So, in the best value portion of the source selection, the teams come back to the owner and propose ways to meet requirements to the owners. The owner will select the team with the best solutions for the money.

Electrical contractors are critical team members and need to be cognizant of the specialized role they can play in the successful pursuit of work by the team. Contractors must keep in mind that team member selection occurs much earlier in design/build than it does in design/bid/build.

“At DBIA, we believe we see a trend toward the development of longer-lasting team relationships. Because close and efficient working relationships bring competitive advantage, teams tend to develop strong and lasting repetitive relationships, which enhance the team’s competitive posture.”

Moving beyond their source selection initiative, DBIA has also helped bring the message of design/build full circle by making some other strong statements.

“DBIA is currently developing an extremely strong code of ethics reflective of the design/build environment. Design/build is all about teamwork and cooperation; as such, it is essential that integrity be absolute among team members as well as between the owner and the design/builder. DBIA argues that the integrity of the process requires that you play with the team members who enabled you to successfully compete for the project,” Evey said.

This means that DBIA takes a strong stand against things like bid shopping and subcontractor replacement. In fact, DBIA is starting to phase out the term subcontractor, replacing it with the term specialty team member.

“Specialty team members should expect that their efforts expended during competition will earn them a role in the performance of the contract work. Similarly, owners are making source selections based on the innovation and creativity demonstrated in team proposals; they should have a right to expect performance by the team members who developed those good ideas,” Evey said.

In the end, what this means is that the implications for electrical contractors will be huge as this type of source selection and design/build performance environment grows. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com.