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Design-build and design-bid-build methods get projects done on time

 The state Department of Transportation used the emergency design-build method to replace the Biloxi Bay Bridge.

The state Department of Transportation used the emergency design-build method to replace the Biloxi Bay Bridge.

By LYNN LOFTON

Architects, engineers and construction managers are embracing the design-build and design-bid-build methods for projects that include transportation and water infrastructure projects, office buildings, schools, and stadiums.

Design-build is an integrated approach that delivers design and construction services under one contract with a single point of responsibility, according to the Design-Build Institute of America. The goal is to overlap the design and construction phases so the project can be delivered faster and risks are often minimized due to having one responsible party. The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s Interstate-55 project South of Jackson is an example of this method. The project did not begin with this method but has changed.

The Bay St. Louis Bridge connecting Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian.

The Bay St. Louis Bridge connecting Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian.

According to MDOT’s Public Affairs Director Jarrod Ravencraft, the I-55 project design and construction services teams will turn in their price proposals to MDOT on April 17. “We anticipate awarding the contract immediately with a Notice to Proceed for work to start by the end of April,” he said. “MDOT expects the work to be substantially finished in final traffic configuration by late 2016 and totally complete in the summer of 2017.”

Design-bid-build is a more commonly used method of project delivery, according to Leigh G. Jaunsen, a partner with Dale Partners Architects in Biloxi, who designed the minor league baseball stadium being built there. “In this method, the owner (the city) contracts separately with the designer and the contractor and design drawings are completed before proceeding with construction,” she said.

Yates Construction is building the stadium. “It’s going well, and contractually it must be ready by August 4,” said Jason Wold, project manager. “We will work with the baseball team to help them have early occupancy.”

He says the project has not encountered anything unusual, other than the tight construction site that lies in downtown Biloxi. “Even though it’s tight, it’s very doable because there are a lot of access points,” he said. “We work with the architects on a daily basis and since the beginning have worked hand-in-hand with them and the engineers to save the city money.”

Jaunsen says design-bid-build was the only option for this project because it’s the only method the city uses to bid large construction projects. “Design-build requires careful compliance with state bid laws and has not been tried on a large construction project in the City of Biloxi,” she added.  “This project started out with a construction manager (CM), which is another project delivery method. The CM broke the scope of work into packages that were designed to get the best pricing by having subcontractors bid the work directly rather than general contractors bidding on the total scope of work.

“This was also done to accelerate the schedule and it worked for the site work packages. However, prices came in too high for the structural packages, and we had very few bidders. So the City opted to release the CM and rebid a general works package to a general contractor for the total scope of work, and Yates won that bid.”

Jaunsen says this method does not work easily for public projects in Mississippi but some states have adopted ways to work with a design-builder. “I do not know all the details about how that works for other states and whether or not it works well,” she said. “The main issue is creating a fair bidding environment for all bidders. It’s currently the best delivery method for private work.”

The budget and schedule for the $36 million stadium project have been unusually difficult throughout but she believe it will be well worth it. “It’s a really important project for the future economic viability of downtown Biloxi,” she said. “Every day, there seems to be a new challenge to getting it built so we have to keep our eye on the goal and remember how great it will be to see that first pitch.”

Ravencraft says MDOT switched the I-55 project method to design-build in response to the unexpected challenges developed during the initial construction phase. “This method will allow MDOT a fast delivery to keep the project on time, an effective approach to keep additional costs minimal and a continued quality standard from the original scope of work,” he said. “This approach assigns greater risk to the contractor, but in turn, contractors benefit from an integrated team where the designer and contractor work together and are fully and equally committed to controlling costs and providing solutions to problems. The design-build method of project delivery is most effective when time is of the essence.”

MDOT utilized an emergency design-build contract in the rebuilding of the Biloxi Bay Bridge and Bay St. Louis Bridge after Hurricane Katrina. The design-build process was also used for State Route 9 when the Toyota plant was built.

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About Lynn Lofton

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