Congress Asks, We Answer

by Louis J. Jenny  |  March 13, 2014

Recently, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held the first hearing of its Panel on Public-Private Partnerships (P3s). While the focus was on the use of P3s in transportation projects, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Representative Bill Shuster (pictured), joined the hearing specifically to ask questions related to the benefits of design-build. In addition, Representative Tom Rice sought to clarify the difference between P3s and design-build.

In response, I sent Chairman Shuster and other committee members and staff the following letter:

Dear Chairman Shuster,

I am writing on behalf of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) to address important questions that arose during at the March 5th Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Public-Private Partnerships (P3s). I respectfully request that if appropriate this letter be included in the record of the hearing.

Your main inquiry at the hearing regarded quantifying the benefits of design-build project delivery. An important study of design-build in transportation came from the University of Florida’s College of Engineering in Gainesville. Researchers Ralph Ellis, Zahar Herbsman and Ashish Kumar evaluated the Florida Department of Transportation’s pilot design-build program (which has since been made permanent) and found that design-build projects were finished 36 percent faster and with 11 percent lower costs. Similar benefits of design-build can be seen across the country. Transportation continues to be the fastest growing design-build sector in the United States, with transportation design-build projects doubling in the past five years, both in quantity and value of projects.

The seminal study on the benefits of design-build encompassing all forms of projects, not just transportation, was conducted by the Construction Industry Institute and Penn State University and was published in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. The study authors examined 351 projects ranging in size from 5,000 to 2.5 million square feet and found that compared to the traditional design-bid-build method of project delivery, design-build projects were completed 33.5 percent faster and with 6.1 percent lower costs. Furthermore, the CII/Penn State study found that design-build projects experience 11.4 percent less schedule growth, and the completed projects were equal or higher quality than design-bid-build according to the project owners surveyed.

Additional benefits of design-build project delivery include:

Design-build projects are more likely to obtain sustainability objectives, achieving LEED and Greenroads Certification (Charles Pankow Foundation, 2010; Greenroads Foundation, 2013).
By closing warranty gaps, owners virtually eliminate litigation claims via design-build. (A Victor O. Schinnerer benchmarking and claims study showed that from 1995-2004, only 1.3% of claims against Architecture/Engineering firms were made by design-build contractors).
Design-build improves quality of projects because the design and construction team are both continuously involved in the project from the beginning, putting a greater focus on quality control, quality assurance, and increasing the usefulness of innovations such as BIM and Lean concepts.
Further, to clarify – and address a question raised by Congressman Tom Rice – all of this research analyzed design-build projects that were not necessarily P3s. While P3s are almost always design-build (because the private sector tends to prefer design-build project delivery), not all design-build projects are P3s. A government entity may enter a design-build contract and still provide all of the funding for it, eliminating the need for private investment.

Finally, as you and your committee turn to reauthorizing MAP-21, DBIA respectfully requests that language designating design-build as an innovative project delivery method and language on incentive payments be retained. Further, we request that language be added to Sec. 504 to include training for alternative project delivery. We have discussed DBIA’s support for these and other provisions in MAP-21 with your staff and look forward to working with you to ensure they are incorporated.

For twenty years, DBIA has driven and shaped the growth of design-build project delivery and is the only membership organization that defines, teaches and promotes best practices in design-build. Thank you for the opportunity to share these facts on design-build and our requests for MAP-21 reauthorization.


Louis J. Jenny
Vice President, Advocacy and Outreach
Design-Build Institute of America