Pete Tunnicliffe

Most projects with a definition that is advanced enough to assemble a detailed scope of work are good candidates for design-build.

  • Q. What are the stages of project delivery, and how does design-build differ from more traditional project delivery approaches? A. Project delivery addresses the project from its inception, which is usually during the concept development stage all the way through implementation. In many cases, this includes construction, operation, and long-term preventative maintenance. In the design-build approach, a single firm provides not only the design but the construction in an integrated manner. This allows the owners to deal with one entity and to move more expeditiously through the process of design and construction with an awareness of what the cost decisions are as designs develop.
  • Q. What is gained by having the designer and builder part of the same entity? A. With an integrated team, the project metrics are aligned from the start. The engineer and the construction members of the team understand the overall objectives to deliver the project to meet the owner’s performance requirements and within certain budget parameters. And so, cost plays a greater factor during the design development in an integrated design-build delivery than in a conventional design. Also, the schedule efficiency is improved significantly, and that can result in significant savings to the owner. It brings the project into the local economy at a much more rapid clip.
  • Q. Are there particular types of projects that make better candidates for design-build? A. Certainly. Most projects with a definition that is advanced enough to assemble a detailed scope of work are good candidates. In the water and wastewater field, facility complexities are fairly significant and the opportunity for innovation allows owners to really reap a benefit both in cost and in facility functionality by the use of design-build. The other influencing factor in the municipal water and wastewater field is energy. A city’s overall energy costs for water and wastewater can make up as much as 30 percent of the city’s overall power costs. So, energy-related efficiencies are now another opportunity for design-builders to bring innovation to today’s facilities capital works.
  • Q. What is this concept of progressive form of delivery? A. Municipal owners really want to be involved in the development of the final design concept. They don’t want to let go of the total scope control that often times is necessary in a fixed priced design-build project, which would require change orders if the owner wants to change or evolve the final design concept together with the design-builder. Owners want some input on the features and they want to have this collaborative involvement as the design gets finalized. In response, what has evolved over the last several years is the progressive form of design-build delivery. The initial procurement from the municipality identifies a cost of the design development and then will carry a request for a target cost of the construction, but yet there is sufficient flexibility to move forward in a collaborative manner and have the design evolve before the final construction price is established.
  • Peter Tunnicliffe, PE,BCEE, DBIA is a CDM Smith senior vice president who works with clients to develop and implement major design-build projects around the world. In 2009, he has served as president of the Water Design-Build Council, a group of integrated design-build firms helping to shape the future of water industry. He also received the Design-Build Distinguished Leadership Award from the Design-Build Institute of America that year.