Progressive Design-Build Authority Coming to New York City?

The New York City Capital Process Reform Task Force created by Mayor Eric Adams last April has released a set of 39 recommendations designed to cut years off the process of delivering public works and saving taxpayer dollars in the process.

Among those recommendations is one to allow agencies to use Progressive Design-Build. This is recommendation number five in the Task Force Report:

Progressive Design-build

The current two-step design-build is well-suited for new construction and other projects with relatively defined project requirements and site conditions, but not for renovation or complex infrastructure when the exact conditions cannot be detailed thoroughly enough in an RFP for design-builders to make a building price commitment as part of their proposal. The Task Force will advocate for authorization to use progressive design-build, a one-step procurement process that will allow the City to quickly select a team based on qualifications and collaborate throughout the essential early phases of design, expanding the range of projects that can be delivered using design-build.

While New York City is relatively new to the use of design-build, with legislative authority granted in 2019 and extended in 2022, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), led by Commissioner and DBIA National Board member Tom Foley, has championed delivering Design-Build Done Right® projects in the city.

Another recommendation, in acknowledgment of DDC’s project delivery work, would establish DDC as a public authority, similar to other large public construction entities in New York state. As a public authority, DDC will have reduced administrative burdens, streamlined procurement processes, and access to faster, cheaper, and more varied modes of project delivery critical to addressing the resiliency and sustainability challenges of our aging infrastructure. The report describes it further:

Issue: Even with the alternative delivery tools outlined above, DDC’s existence as a City agency constrains its ability to deliver projects quickly. DDC needs additional tools to continue equipping the City to meet resiliency and sustainability challenges and maintain aging infrastructure.

Recommendation: Pursue State legislation to create a DDC Authority (DDC+), which would eliminate many of the administrative challenges faced by City agencies. As an authority, DDC+ will have reduced administrative burdens, fewer redundant oversight steps during procurement and contract administration, and wide access to alternative project delivery. DDC+ will no longer be subject to prescriptive local procurement regulations that have not kept pace with the needs of the City’s varied, critically important capital portfolio. Removing DDC from regulations issued by the Procurement Policy Board and other processes will allow the new authority to streamline and accelerate project delivery. As a public authority, DDC will be subject to audits and reporting requirements to ensure transparency and accountability.

Here are comments from some of the key players in NYC who will be working to pass a nine-part state legislative package including these reforms.

“As DDC takes on more and more responsibility, including billions of dollars in urgent coastal resiliency and green infrastructure programs, the task force’s recommendation to create a streamlined design and construction authority couldn’t come at a better time. A new design and construction authority will save precious time and money and restore New Yorkers’ faith in ‘Getting Stuff Done,’” said DDC Commissioner Thomas Foley. “Emergency events, like our incredible COVID response, have allowed our talented team to throw out the old rulebook and do things innovatively, while still protecting public funds and reaching record levels of M/WBE participation. We can continue to find ways to improve the current system, but ultimately it would be a lost opportunity not to pass legislation that will fast-track so many urgent infrastructure priorities and close the book on an outdated contracting system that hasn’t served the city well for decades.”

“There is a covenant between government and the people of our city: New Yorkers pay taxes, and they expect that we deliver for them. For far too long, we have betrayed taxpayers when it comes to building public infrastructure,” said Mayor Adams. “Now is the time to overhaul the slow and expensive process we go through to build public facilities so we can ‘Get Stuff Done’ for all New Yorkers — reconstructing streets, repairing bridges, bringing water to people’s homes, creating parks and libraries, and more. I am proud that our administration is advancing these recommendations today and look forward to advocating for needed changes at the state level in the upcoming session in Albany.”

You can read the complete task force report here.