DBIA Behind-the-Scenes: The Annual Design-Build Student Competition

In this series, staff at the national headquarters of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) discuss the details of their efforts to define, teach and promote best practices in design-build. In this post, DBIA’s Director of Communications & Special Projects, Geoff Corey, interviewed Anieca Lord, DBIA’s Region Relations Manager who has been coordinating the Annual National Design-Build Student Competition for the past three years.

Geoff Corey: Could you describe the student competition for those who may be unfamiliar.

Anieca Lord: Each year DBIA sponsors a student competition to give students first-hand experience with the power of Design-Build Done Right™.  The competition is designed to provide students the ability to take part in the design of a real world project, and so it is broken up into two phases: RFQ and RFP. The RFQ is a regional competition, where one team from each regional area is chosen to move forward and respond to the RFP. From those eight, the top three are invited to present their work live at our national conference in the fall, where they are evaluated by a diverse jury of design-build experts, and a winner is awarded at our closing general session.


GC: Why is it important for a student to compete in this before graduating and entering the working world?

AL: First and foremost, it introduces them to how the design-build process works. Most students, at this stage in their life, have only been made familiar with design-build, so this provides a valuable opportunity to challenge students to put into practice skills learned in collaboration, innovation and teaming, as well as gain knowledge on effective design-build project delivery in a real world scenario.


GC: What do the students get most excited about? Most nervous about?

AL: The timeline and final presentation are definitely the most nerve-wracking.  It is an intense program where, for most, it is the first time they’ve ever responded to a design-build RFQRFP.  They are put in real world scenarios, working long hours on a very short time frame of one week. For the selected top three teams, where they present live to a national jury (and audience), they are excited and nervous, but that is where they come alive – that is where the magic is, where all their hard work comes together. It is really something exciting to experience.


GC: Do you have a short story or two of some of your favorite moments from past competitions?

AL: The first year, we really didn’t know what to expect, and really we were just hoping to have at least 10 teams. But working with Dennis Ashley, the region champions and the national jury really provided an opportunity to collaborate, and make something really great.  In the end, we had 29 teams compete.

In our second year, we grew from 29 teams to 42, making it even more exciting, competitive and busy. By the time we got to the live presentations at national, a healthy competition had ensued between the top three teams, one very established team and two new teams.  During the live presentations, we had major technical issues with the projector, resulting in the disruption of Colorado State University’s PowerPoint at least five times.  I’ve never seen a group work better together under the circumstances; they didn’t skip a beat, even though their screen went black for full minutes at a time, they were professional and took it in stride. As the jury told them, it happens in the real world, and they handled it better than most that have been doing it for years.  They went on to win the whole thing!

Just reciting those stories to you now is making me so jazzed for this year’s competition!


For information on the 2015 competition, please visit that section on DBIA’s website here.