The Design-Build Option is Elementary

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The Design-Build Option is Elementary

Fall 2012

By Tim Thoman

Editor’s note: While higher education projects draw much attention in the education sector, the country faces significant infrastructure challenges in the K-12 school system. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1998, the average public school building in the United States was 42 years old. With the exception of administrative facilities, school districts have deferred an estimated $271 billion in building and grounds maintenance in their schools, or an average of $4,883 per student. Tim Thoman of Indianapolis-based Performance Services Inc., a design-build engineering firm, explains how one state is tackling this problem using design-build.

Legislation enabling design-build in Indiana is helping fuel small, yet significant, public education projects. Four of the five Indiana K-12 school projects costing more than $25 million completed in the last two years have been delivered via design-build. What’s sparking this design-build trend? Our customers say that the integrated process allows them to give more weight to quality, cost and speed. This best value approach helps public schools demonstrate that tax dollars are being used wisely. Results support their conclusions in each area.

Quality: The first K-12 design-build project in the state was the construction of a $22 million, 150,000-square-foot elementary and middle school for South Adams Schools in Berne, Ind. (see the spring 2011 issue of DBIA’s IQ). The project was completed nine months from the contract award, or 45 days ahead of schedule. In addition, there were no change orders related to unforeseen conditions, value-added work, errors or omissions due to the quality of work invested by the team and our “no change order guarantee.”

Cost: In the same school system, the new school achieved a savings of 16 percent compared to the state design-bid-build average cost per square foot. In addition, the school earned ENERGY STAR certification as they achieved an ENERGY STAR rating of 89 after one year of operation. This federal recognition not only provided the school with good publicity, but also saved tens of thousands of dollars on its annual operational budget every year since the project was completed.

Speed: At Noblesville Schools in Noblesville, Ind., we delivered a $34 million, eight-building project with major renovations and 15 additions. Six of the schools were completed in seven months, and the other two were completed the following summer. As the design-builder, the only way we could guarantee delivery of such a large project on time was to bring together the designers, builders, contractors and equipment vendors upfront in the process. The team’ s ability to solve problems together sped the entire process.

Since Indiana’s enactment of design-build legislation in 2005, Performance Services has aggressively promoted design-build delivery for K-12 public schools. Fear of the unknown persists, however, and education is the only way to change misconceptions about design-build practices. We are confident that evidence will continue to mount that design-build delivers the best quality, lowers overall cost and provides quick delivery, giving public schools and the communities they serve the best value.

Tim Thoman is the founder, owner and president of Performance Services, Inc., a design-build engineering company that specializes in constructing and renovating schools, universities and hospitals to deliver optimal learning environments through the guaranteed energy savings contract and design-build procurement methods. Innovative wind power and geothermal are integral parts of the company’s energy-services portfolio.