Procuring a Design-Build or Construction Management At-Risk Project

The most successful design-build (DB) and construction management at-risk (CMAR) projects begin with a well planned procurement process that is based on the owners’s objectives, expectations and clearly-identified priorities. Individually or together, these attributes can affect the duration and complexity of the procurement process, as well as its cost. For a successful procurement process, an owner must have knowledge of state and local regulations and must provide a clear statement of the project’s requirements, as well as a draft contract that includes terms, selection criteria and schedule. Clearly conveying this information in a transparent process minimizes unnecessary expenditures of time and resources for both the owner and potential design-build or CMAR firms.

Here are some overarching guidelines to facilitate a successful design-build or CMAR procurement.

  • Determine which project-delivery method to use – fixed-price or progressive design-build, or CMAR – and whether project requirements will be performance-based, prescriptive, or a combination.
  • Seek the advice of other owners who have conducted design-build or CMAR procurements, in addition to obtaining appropriate legal and financial guidance.
  • Determine whether, and to what extent, the design-build or CMAR firm will be allowed to self-perform (often the result of state laws that reflect the balance of influence among owners, general contractors, and subcontractors).
  • Complete, and make available to respondents, any work related to permitting, environmental impacts, and site geotechnical investigations.
  • Clearly describe the scope of services, project requirements (including desired LEED certification level, if applicable), and desired level of owner involvement and control.
  • Issue a draft contract early in the procurement process to gain insight from prospective respondents. Present the schedule, selection criteria and process, and communication protocols to be used in the procurement process.
  • Assemble, and include in procurement documents as appropriate, a reasonable draft contract that equitably addresses and allocates risks to the party best suited to control or absorb them.
  • If shared savings between the owners and delivery firm(s) will be allowed, include appropriate provisions in the contract. Keep the contract language clear and format uncomplicated – avoiding unnecessary complexity that can reduce participation, create delays, or increase costs.
Design-build projects are all about teamwork. In the most successful projects, the designer, the builder, and owner collaborate seamlessly for the duration of the effort. They work together as a single team based on trust, with a single goal: to deliver a quality product on time and on budget. Establishing this relationship of trust begins with a well structured procurement process and clear communications between the parties.
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Topics: WDBC Admin.

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