More than 400 attendees, including Owners and industry practitioners, came together in-person at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA, for the 2023 Federal Design-Build Symposium, setting a record for attendance at the annual event. During this day-and-a-half of networking and education, key players from federal agencies and the AEC industry attended general sessions and specialized track sessions designed to help federal design-build teams deliver on the promise of economic progress and recovery.
Recapping a Busy Day One
The event opened Tuesday afternoon with a lively, interactive “marriage counseling” keynote called Hot Button Issues That Derail a Project (Where Do We Go Wrong?). Moderated by Jim Whitaker, FAIA, NCARB, FDBIA, of HKS, Inc., presenters Jennifer Macks, PE, LEED AP, DBIA (Gilbane), Virginia A. McAllister, RA, LEED AP, NCIDQ, DBIA (Iron Horse Architects, Inc.), Angela Miklich, LEED AP BD+C (General Services Administration) and Laura Wake-Ramos, AIA, NCARB, EDAC, DBIA (Mortenson), dove into challenging topics that, if left unaddressed, can adversely impact team performance, synergy and outcomes.
Before launching the two tracks available to attendees –– The Right Tools and Techniques for Success and Design-Build Done Right® in Action –– Owners and practitioners attended specialty forums to focus on issues unique to each of their roles, particularly in federal projects. The forum format allowed for open, honest discussion about some of the issues and challenges experienced in today’s market.
After a round of afternoon track education sessions, the second general session kicked off with Emily Beardall from FMI Corporation and Keith Molenaar, Ph.D., FDBIA, from the University of Colorado at Boulder to discuss key industry data from two recent studies, FMI’s Market Trends Update Study and the ACEC Research Institute’s Design-Build Study, to help inform the course ahead. Kevin J. McMahon from the ACEC Research Institute moderated the session.
Day one closed with a bustling Networking Reception, sponsored by Michael Baker International, Nicholson and Pullman, that provided attendees an opportunity to connect with other federal design-build professionals, learn more about sponsors and unwind from the day’s sessions.
A Full Day of Programming on Day Two
Wednesday featured a full day of programming and a networking lunch sponsored by the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. In addition to more sessions for each track, three general sessions explored best practices and challenges in action.
Federal Design-Build Best Practices — Status and Highlights, the early morning general session, featured DBIA’s Jim Ropelewski, JD, DBIA; General Services Administration’s Laura Stagner, FAIA, PMP, DBIA; Federal Bureau of Investigation’s David Triplett; and moderator Robert “Skip” Vaughn, SES, of the National Institute of Standards & Technology. The panel discussed highlights of DBIA’s upcoming changes to the Federal Design-Build Best Practices Primer with a focus on the inherent particularities and requirements of the federal market.
Later, Ross A. Davidson, Assoc. AIA, FHFI, DBIA, of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs moderated a discussion among Reggie Jones, DBIA, of Fox Rothschild LLP; Tracy Marcinowski of U.S. General Services Administration; and Stacy Percoski of The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. No One Is to Blame: Successful Collaboration in an Uncertain Market looked at issues in federal design-build projects with a wide lens and delved into what tools agencies have, how they can be used and how and where risks are best placed. Some of the issues they highlighted were soaring construction costs, unreliable supply chain challenges and the lack of consistency across federal agencies.
Finally, the symposium closed out with Design-Build Done Right® in Action – An Award-Winning Project/Team. The Ireland Army Health Clinic and the team behind it represent design-build at its best, and the session explored what went into this award-winning project, how the team met and exceeded their goals, what challenges they encountered and how adhering to design-build best practices paved the way to success. Panelists included members of the Ireland Army Health Clinic team Nicholas J. Bibelhauser III, PE, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Darl Flake and Dave Peterson, DBIA, from Mortenson; and Amy Schaap, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, FHFI, DBIA, from Arcadis.
Collaborative Delivery Leadership Academy
In addition to the seemingly limitless knowledge shared among these professionals over the day-and-a-half Federal Design-Build Symposium, DBIA introduced a new initiative called the Collaborative Delivery Leadership Academy, created in partnership with Barbara Jackson, LLC, set to launch in 2024. The Academy will consist of six instructional sessions, a combination of in-person and virtual learning, addressing distinct components of the Design-Build Done Right® Leadership model. While the skills and knowledge apply well to design-build, they are actually applicable for any project delivery method.
Dr. Barbara Jackson provided glimpses of the six leadership building blocks throughout the General Sessions and Networking Lunch, highlighting each skill design-build leaders need to set themselves apart from the traditional leadership mindset structure.
With the growth of design-build coupled with the passage of the historic infrastructure funding legislation and continued post-pandemic recovery efforts, bringing together key players from federal agencies and the design and construction industry with the mutual goal of optimizing federal project outcomes is more important than ever. The Federal Design-Build Symposium exemplifies DBIA’s commitment to providing industry, federal agencies and the programs they fund in states nationwide with the resources they need to build high-performance teams who deliver better projects.