Best Practices for Accelerating a Design-Build Project Schedule

Compared to the traditional design-bid-build method, design-build delivery can accelerate design and construction schedules by 20% to 30%. Many cities and counties have implemented new fast-tracked permitting review processes to reduce the turnaround time for issuing permits, which are critical to maintaining the construction schedule.

Break Down Communication Barriers

One of the best ways to expedite the permit process is to find ways to break down communication barriers and build understanding with the local permitting departments and state agencies.

PCL Construction learned this during the design phase of the Central District WWTP Oxygen Production Facility project for Miami-Dade County. Early in the permitting process, PCL held multiple coordination meetings with local agencies to outline and discuss the scope of work, project-specific requirements, construction milestones, and permit deadlines. Early engagement allowed the reviewers to see our proposed design, discuss the permit requirements that would affect the design, and identify options to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to the project schedule.

Engage and Inform

Design-build team members can also participate in seminars and workshops offered by the permitting agencies to gain comprehensive knowledge of the electronic permit review system. Participating in these permitting informational sessions allows your firm and team members to gain a better understanding of processes, approach, and the permit reviewer’s expectations. This practice also fosters working relationships and facilitates subsequent permit coordination efforts, which allows for smoother execution of an expedited schedule.

Continuous Communication

Communication with the permitting agencies should continue even after the permit package is submitted. Rather than simply waiting for review comments to come back, the design-build team should proactively communicate with the permit reviewers to discuss and clarify any unclear items and get a better understanding of their review comments. This allows the team to prepare for and adequately respond to all the review comments in a timely fashion, which will effectively improve the permit turnaround time. The key to this practice is to keep track of all review comments in the agency portal and to be proactive in addressing every item prior to final execution of the permit report.

Concurrent Design and Construction

Another way to accelerate your design-build project schedule is to look for opportunities where your team can perform design and construction concurrently. After the permit package submittal, the PCL design-build team for the Miami-Dade Central District WWTP Oxygen Production Facility scheduled meetings with the owner’s representatives and the building department to review the design approach. As a result of those meetings, the team decided the best approach was to create two design packages (one for the foundation and one for the building), with the goal of obtaining a master permit. The master permit allowed construction to begin prior to the completion of the overall project design. The design-build team submitted the permit application and obtained the foundation design package permit, which allowed PCL to proceed with construction while the design team completed and finalized the building design package.

In the case of the Oxygen Production Facility project, fast-tracking the permit process resulted in reducing the overall construction project schedule by three months. Both construction and 100% design are currently ahead of schedule as a result of effective communication and permitting.


About Gerry Torres, DBIA, Manager of Preconstruction & Estimating Services, PCL Construction

Gerry has 20+ years of hands-on experience in water and wastewater treatment projects, including estimating, preconstruction, and project operations on design-bid-build and collaborative delivery (design-build and CMAR) projects. He has an extensive background in cost-effective planning and has solid relationships with local and regional subcontractors and vendors. Gerry is also a certified design-build professional and has worked as the manager of preconstruction and estimating services at PCL Construction for the past three years.
Topics: Design-Build, PCL.