One of the primary objectives of the design/build philosophy is saving time and money for everyone involved in a project. But those savings won’t be possible if all the parties don’t employ the right construction methods.

In this case, procurement methods at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) triggered some objections. The corps may have resolved those issues with an announcement made in late summer.

The USACE issued a new internal policy that clarifies the appropriate use of one-step design/build procurement. It states that the two-phase selection process is the corps’ preferred method for acquiring design/build services.

To the uninitiated, it may seem counterintuitive that a two-phase procurement would be preferred over one step. After all, one step is half as many as two.

On the other hand, reducing the number of steps doesn’t necessarily lead to a more efficient or effective procurement process.

Critics of the one-step process include the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). They argued that the one-step procurement was expensive, time-consuming and did not narrow the field to the best firms.

In the two-step process, firms submit their qualifications, and the procuring agency winnows the field to a few firms, which then compete for the project based on price and design. In the single-phase scenario, there is no narrowing down of project applicants. The agency opens the field to a dozen or more firms that submit competing bids and designs.

DBIA and AGC argued that the one-step process leads procuring agencies to make a selection based only on price, and many companies--—because of the time and money involved in submitting bids and the low odds of winning the competition with such a wide field—cannot afford to compete.

According to the internal directive, the corps will continue to rely on the single-phase process only for some military projects with well-defined parameters.