Milwaukee School of Engineering Wins DBIA National Design-Build Student Competition

Issue 4 of 2014


On the last day of the 2014 Design-Build Conference & Expo, DBIA’s Executive Director/CEO, Lisa Washington, CAE, took the stage to announce the winner of DBIA’s National Design-Build Student Competition. Flanked by the three finalist student teams – from the University of Oklahoma, the University of Washington and the Milwaukee School of Engineering – she read aloud, “And the 2014 winner is… Milwaukee School of Engineering!”

“One of the main ways we grew as a team was through focusing on collaboration,” said Ben Ihlen, captain of the winning student team. “For our team to succeed, we knew that it would require all four of us relying on and trusting each other to collaboratively create a user-focused and owner-goal-driven project. Through this project we were able to grow as students, as people and as future engineers and construction managers.”

The National Design-Build Student Competition mirrors best practices in actual design-build project delivery by breaking the competition into a two-phase process. In phase one, a general “problem” statement (RFQ) was issued to teams of students from DBIA’s Regional chapters across the country. The teams were required to demonstrate design intent in the RFQ that was evaluated along with the team qualifications in order to select the first-place teams. In phase two, the first-place teams from each Region received the RFP. Then three short-listed teams were chosen by a jury of design-build experts from those submissions to compete live at the Design-Build Conference & Expo in Dallas, Texas.

The students were tasked with demonstrating design-build best practices by proposing a delivery solution to design and construct a more than 120,000-square-foot comprehensive recreation center on a college campus. The teams had an Anticipated Fixed Limit of Project Cost of between $28,000,000 and $32,000,000.

Thirty-six teams from 25 different schools across the country submitted proposals. Sadly, one team had a seemingly strong submission, but had somehow missed an entire section of the proposal. “As disappointing as that mistake is for the students,” said Lisa Washington, “in a real-world situation their team would have been disqualified, so that incident is actually a perfect example of the kinds of lessons this competition can teach.”

When asked the reasons for selecting the winning team, Jury Chairman Dennis Ray Ashley, AIA, LEED AP, DBIA, remarked, “What set the Milwaukee School of Engineering team apart was their thorough dissection of the owner’s requirements to understand the owner’s vision in their written response to the RFP. During the presentation to the jury, they communicated with confidence and passion their ability to provide those design and construction services.”

Ashely continued, “I’m so thankful and privileged to be able to participate in this RFQ/RFP competition that simulates the industry to assist in developing skills vital to their success in beginning their careers.”