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The Growth and Growing Pains of Design-Build Construction

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Alternative delivery methods of construction projects such as design build, construction manager at risk, public private partnerships, and job order contracting have recently become more wide spread. They are all meant to all provide less costly options and options that are not so time consuming. Although these newer methods are expanding in popularity, soliciting & contracting (design-bid-build) remains the most used method for construction contracting.

Since 2011 and 2012, approximately 20 states have grown their design-build power. What design-build is, is a combination of a single contract for architectural/engineering design and construction. It’s intended for both bridge construction and highway construction. The advantages of design-build is as follows: the contractor is chosen based on capabilities, qualifications, experience and price; duties are carried out by a single team under one contract which reduces time, and there’s a contractual relationship between the team and construction teams. The disadvantages include: A/E’s may not act as their agent during the project and even if the owner has an independent A/E involved, they don’t have as much involvement into design details; the owner will be deprived of some of the design process; there may be less competition as well.

All of the new alternative delivery methods for construction have growing pains. Design build and other alternative, advanced delivery methods change the perspective that traditional procurement ideas are used.

Examples of metropolitan areas that have incorporated the design build method include the I-35W Bridge over Saint Anthony Falls of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In New York, The State passed legislation to use design-build in October 2011, after the destruction caused by Hurricane Irene. Governor Cuomo also used design build methods for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, and the renovations at LaGuardia Airport.

What part will design build really play in these specific projects?


In Minnesota when the I-35W Bridge gave way and collapsed in 2007, design build carried out the renovation and had cars driving over the Mississippi in 2008. The decision to use this method was mad because it made the renovation fast and innovative. The state saved time by combining construction duties and design, and approximately $400,000 a day was spared from lost revenue and the cost it would have taken to deviate traffic to other areas.

The Tappan Zee Bridge, now called the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, has approximately 138,000 cars traveling on it per day. The Tappan Zee is said to have had double the average accident rate than any other on the 574 mile NY State Thruway system, but using the method of design build to rebuild the bridge has made the process better, safer for commuters, and more cost efficient for the state of New York.

When design build takes effect at the LaGuardia airport, the new renovations will completely transform the space. LaGuardia will become a unified airport with added terminals, an Air train that makes traveling faster, more taxi-lanes, and added best-in-class luxuries. The new terminals will be for already existing terminals B, C, and D. The roadway system will see improvements and a new foundation will be laid down for the parking area. Delta Air Lines will create and run a new terminal that will take the place of terminals C and D.

What can be done to figure out which construction method works best for you and your project needs? Always choose the best and most qualified contractor for you, and what your project would benefit from. Always evaluate your state/agency laws, predicted outcomes of the specific project, competition, budgets, and timeline duration. In cases where there are emergencies and natural disasters, the newer delivery methods such as design build may be a better option for the project’s demands.

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