ENR Talks Design-Build with DBIA’s Lisa Washington


DBIA Executive Director/CEO, Lisa Washington, had a freewheeling conversation with ENR Editors on the Critical Path podcast about design-build’s impressive growth and its impact on projects nationwide. We urge you to take a few minutes and listen to the entire conversation but here are a few highlights from Lisa’s comments:

Looking Back

The past decade has brought tremendous growth in the utilization of design-build from 22% of construction spending in 2012 to nearly half of all projects by 2025.

“But we see some of the same challenges we saw 10 years ago. And that is the ability of those new to design-build to implement what we call Design-Build Done Right®. That is design-build done according to best practices. So, our goal is to continue to educate industry, in particular owners, public sector and private sector owners on those best practices that optimize the use of design-build.”

Technology = People and Process

DBIA’s commitment to expanding our focus on technology and innovation provides strategies for design-build teams working to maximize their collaboration.

“What we have learned in the industry over the years is that design-build is best suited to incorporate innovations, like technology. It was best suited to achieve sustainability goals, it was best suited to incorporate lean principles because the team comes together early in the process. So those innovations can be best implemented early. So, we do see technology playing a major role in the industry and the outcomes of projects”

MWDBE Engagement is Key

The AEC’s workforce shortage continues to present challenges for teams. DBIA believes improved engagement of MWDBE firms can help alleviate those pressures. DBIA’s Industry Match portal allows firms to connect with MWDBE partners.

FMI Research shows design-build is projected to encourage greater participation by minority, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises. And that’s because we’re involving the firms earlier and there’s greater flexibility of partner selection that supports increased MWBE participation. So, we are looking for ways to create opportunities for MWDBEs to engage in DBA and to allow them to connect with some of the firms that are more experienced in design-build. Our Industry Match portal does that.”

Iowa Remains an Outlier

This year, the state of Iowa not only rejected the use of design-build but also rolled back the clock by preventing the use of design-build in the state’s university system despite delivering years of successful design-build projects. As one of only two states without design-build authority, Iowa remains an outlier.

“In our discussions with leaders in Iowa, we really feel that the discussion didn’t focus on the merits or lack of merits of design-build. It was special-interest politics, and I don’t think that’s something you can easily combat. So, I think they’re going to have to ultimately come along with the rest of the nation because the proof is in the numbers and the research. In the grand scheme of things, if people aren’t ready for design-build, it’s probably not going to work very well because you’ve heard me mention many times that design-build is much more than the single point of responsibility contract. It’s also a mental shift in the mindset of collaboration and how you work together.”

Design-Build Will Be Key to Delivering Infrastructure Investment

Collaboration and innovation are especially important as Owners work to deliver historic infrastructure investment. Design-build offers both to help maximize project success.

“Projects are becoming more complex. And a lot of owners are looking to the industry to provide innovative solutions to some of these complexities. You know, everybody’s looking for higher levels of sustainability. Everybody’s looking for an extended lifespan of projects and to optimize lifecycle costs. So, I think the increasing project complexity and the need for so many projects to be built quickly, is really driving both the private and the public sector Owners to seek design-build.”

2022 Federal Design-Build Symposium Coming Soon

Federal agencies’ use of design-build has grown with the industry, but the market is unique. That’s why the July 26-27 Federal Design-Build Symposium is perfectly timed to help owners and industry deliver the most successful infrastructure possible.

“GSA is probably one that’s leading the way. They have some pretty robust design excellence, as it relates to design-build guidelines. We’ve been working with agencies like the State Department and the FBI on training and initiatives to really drive home those Design-Build Done Right® best practices to optimize it. So, we do believe that there’s enough opportunity and interest in the federal sector to bring back the Federal Design-Build Symposium which happens in July of this year. The federal sector can be challenging when you get agencies like GSA or the Corps of Engineers, they have their various districts or different headquarters across the country. So, they do things differently.”

These are just the highlights of a fascinating conversation with ENR’s Eileen Cho and Jeff Yoders. We hope you’ll check out the full podcast here.