Successful Owner Project Procurements Begin With Deciding What’s Important

When considering a project delivery approach, municipal owners may be reluctant to choose a collaborative-delivery method. Design-bid-build (DBB) has been the standard approach in public works contracting, so changing to a different approach can be challenging and uncomfortable. Some owners may fear that they have less influence with a collaborative-delivery approach than they do with DBB. Owners still maintain influence throughout collaborative delivery but will exert that influence differently than with DBB. This influence starts with the procurement documents and is memorialized in the design-build (DB) contract.

Just like the traditional DBB method, there are several factors to consider with collaborative delivery when deciding on the right method for a design and construction project. The following is a set of guidelines to help owners determine the best approach for achieving a successful procurement and project using collaborative delivery:

  • First, it is important to determine why you want to use collaborative delivery. Is it to reduce schedule, reduce budget, alleviate staffing limitations, obtain schedule and/or cost certainty earlier, and/or allow innovation in the delivery of the project? Evaluating these considerations will help direct you to the best delivery option and prepare focused procurement documents.
  • Second, are you comfortable having the designer and contractor as a single entity, or do you want to contract with each organization separately? Do you prefer to have an engineer or contractor in the lead? Communicating this in the solicitation will help DB practitioners respond with the best team structure and provide a focused project approach to your RFQ and RFP.
  • Third, it is important to identify the qualifications of a DB that are important to you and to identify these in the procurement documents. DB teams can put forth an impressive SOQ/proposal, but they may not be aware of your qualification preferences. Articulate what is important—do you want teams with collaborative-delivery experience, teaming partners that have worked together, etc.? It is easy to include a plethora of requirements because it may seem like that will get you the perfect team, but the more prescriptive the minimum requirements, the fewer SOQs/proposals you may receive. Finding the right balance of specific requirements and priorities can be beneficial in maintaining competition with the solicitation and receiving quality submittals.
  • Fourth, in addition to qualifications, decide on what information is needed to differentiate between teams and what will be important in selection. Including the scoring criteria communicates what you value in a team. What detail do you need in an organization chart? How about self-performance? There are arguments for allowing or not allowing self-performance, but whichever you choose, think through what the construction market is expected to be and what flexibility this might give your team. Do you need an indicative price or budget validation? If confirming that your budget is correct, a budget validation exercise can give you better information than an indicative price from proposers, which may not be readily comparable between competing teams. However, if your budget is dated, indicative pricing might be better. Whichever you decide, understanding how that information will be received is crucial in the selection. Remember that you will be reviewing the SOQs and proposals. The more you ask for, the larger the submittals will be. Having focus in the RFQ and RFP will help you in your review and scoring.

Deciding what is important to you in a DB procurement is the best way to ensure you get the team that is most suited to complete your project. Similar to a professional services procurement and contract, DB procurement documents and contracts will be the instruments for the owner to exert influence to achieve the project they want designed and constructed. In a DBB project, the bid documents (100% design and specifications) are where authority is exercised, while in a DB project, authority is established in the contracts.

Every project is different, which is why there is not a cookie-cutter method for delivering design and construction projects. As the owner, it’s important prior to the procurement and early in the design process to identify what you want for collaborative delivery, personnel and firm qualifications, and any key elements that the DB teams should be aware of to set you up for a successful DB project.

About Richard Pyle, PE, Vice President, Carollo Engineers

Richard Pyle, PE, is a civil engineer with more than 30 years of experience in the water and wastewater industry. His career includes broad experience in managing large water resources projects including planning, design, and construction of various water and wastewater projects. As a vice president with Carollo, he is focused on assisting Carollo’s clients in the implementation of design-build, construction management at-risk, and other collaborative-delivery approaches.
Topics: Design-Build, Owners.