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Policy Statement 400 - Design-Build Procurement

 

Approved by the Engineering Practice Policy Committee on March 14, 2019
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 28, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2019

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the use of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) criteria when using the two-phase competitive source-selection process required by the Federal Acquisition Reform Act of 1996 (Pub.L.104-106) for design-build contracts awarded by government agencies. The 1996 Act retains the essential QBS concepts embodied in the 1972 Brooks Act and requires that the contracting agency ("owner") devote sufficient architectural and engineering (A/E) services to prepare the design-build solicitation (which must identify the disciplines needed in the design-build team), and to represent the owner's interests throughout the project duration. The contract between the owner and the design-build team must establish a means for direct communications between the owner and the designer, as well as communication with other team members. The owner should provide predetermined reimbursement to the firms selected to submit complete design-build proposals. ASCE supports incorporating the two-phase design-build procurement method at the state level.  

Issue

Design-build is a project delivery system whereby both design and construction responsibilities are consolidated into a single contract in order to better achieve the owner's objectives with regards to cost, quality, and schedule. However, this approach presents certain challenges which must be addressed if quality is not to be arbitrarily sacrificed in favor of cost or schedule. These challenges include:

  • Ensuring that the design-build team is highly qualified in both the construction and the design fields. This requires ensuring that QBS is rigorously applied throughout the selection process, particularly with respect to the design element of the design-build team. In practice, the outcome of the selection phase is largely, often almost entirely, driven by price, potentially obviating the intent of QBS. For this reason, A/E firms come under intense pressure during proposal development to cut costs which, at some point, undoubtedly impacts design quality; and
  • Providing a contractual mechanism enabling the designer to fulfill its professional and ethical obligations to the owner and the general public. Although the construction cost element is invariably much larger than the design portion in a design-build project, the design element cannot be materially subordinated if professional standards are to be maintained; 

Rationale

Effective ways of ensuring public safety and efficient construction, operation, and maintenance of federal infrastructure include:

  • Qualifications Based Selection of A/Es;
  • Emphasis on life-cycle analysis during the design process;
  • Adequately funding maintenance instead of breakdown repairs;
    Streamlining planning, design, and construction processes;
  • Encouraging innovation in technology and management;
  • Properly allocating risk at the outset of a project, for example by using an Engineers' Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC) Agreement;
  • Addition of a qualified construction/procurement management team to provide oversight on the owner's behalf;
  • Performing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to define project design criteria and to determine required right-of-way acquisitions;
  • Securing stakeholders input and seeking approval of long lead permitting agencies in advance of the Design/Build project; and
  • Development of well-defined technical specification for the procurement package.  

ASCE Policy Statement 400
First Approved in 1992

See also ASCE Policy Statement 304 "Qualifications Based Selection of Professional Engineers."


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