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October 18, 2022

Landmark Study Highlights Key Recommendations in Design-Build Project Delivery

Landmark Study Highlights Key Recommendations in Design-Build Project Delivery

The ACEC Research Institute today released a new study with the University of Colorado Boulder that examines the benefits and challenges both the project owners and firms face when applying the design-build (DB) delivery system.

Design Build State of Practice: Recommendations for Agencies and Industry on Effective Project Delivery, conducted by Keith Molenaar, Dean of the College of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, details recommendations to firms and project owners, including federal agencies and industry, on successful delivery, as well as new information to enhance the benefits of cost and schedule savings associated with this project delivery method.

The White House noted the importance of the research, calling it a “landmark study” in the fact sheet released last week for the Action Plan to Accelerate Infrastructure.

“The key to success in design-build delivery is clear communication early in the partnership process,” said Keith Molenaar, University of Colorado Boulder. “While our research shows that size, risk transfer and long-term relationship building are vital elements of successful contracts, clarity about risk allocation above all else has to be reached so the project work can progress with confidence across all project participants.”

Recommendations of the report include that owners are encouraged to embrace contract language that fairly allocates risk and be active members of the design-build team, and that firms should build long-term relationships with constructors coupled with strong risk reviews.

“Over the past several years, implementation of design-build contracts has grown without showing signs of slowing,” said John Carrato, ACEC Research Institute Chair. “While certain projects do well with design build, the study highlighted significant challenges with larger infrastructure projects, which should get the attention of our DOT clients and others working to deliver projects under the bipartisan infrastructure law. This study provides great recommendations to put all projects on the path to success. I am so proud to see it released.”

This new research is timely as the engineering industry works in coordination with state, local, tribal and territorial highway programs on projects funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The study shows significant concern with larger infrastructure projects which could impact the success of the investments under the law.

“Design Build State of Practice comes at a critical time when momentum is building in the industry as a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Linda Bauer Darr, ACEC President and CEO. “It is my sincere hope that the key recommendations in this report will be a game changer for those utilizing the design-build delivery system on projects that will improve the everyday lives of Americans.”

“The White House is looking to accelerate the pace of projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and recognizes how indispensable these strategies will be to government clients that choose design-build,” said ACEC Board Chair W. Arthur Barrett, II. “The insights provided by this report can help make certain that ongoing and future design-build projects run smoothly and efficiently.”


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