Thinking about using an alternative project delivery approach such as Design-Build (DB) or Design-Build-Operate (DBO) for your next project?
Here are some key questions to address in making that decision:

  1. Do local laws allow it? Review local laws because they may restrict the type and size of projects for which DB or DBO can be used. These laws vary from State to State.
  2. Is the project really a good candidate? DB and DBO are best suited for new projects or discrete stand-alone parts of an existing facility. Doing a DB/DBO project within the confines of an existing facility makes it more difficult to clearly assign responsibility if there are problems with the completed project.
  3. Is there a need to complete project more quickly than can be done with conventional Design-Bid-Build (DBB)? If there is time pressure to complete the project, the time-saving advantage from concurrent design and construction in DB/DBO can be of great value.
  4. Is there a willingness to give up some control of project details? The owner has a great deal of control of all details of the project when using conventional DBB. In DB/DBO, the more of this control that is relinquished, the greater the opportunity for money-saving design innovation. If you’re not willing to give up some control, don’t bother.
  5. Is there a willingness to develop new contract documents? There may be a temptation to just modify previous DBB project documents to fit a DB/DBO project. Don’t do it. Good contract documents are a key to a successful DB/DBO project. Find and use legal and technical consultants who have a good track record with DB/DBO projects to help you with procurement, development of contract documents and contract negotiation
  6. Are the regulatory agencies willing to modify their project review procedures? The regulatory agencies that must approve the project may not have experience with DB/DBO projects. They are used to reviewing complete plans and specifications. To realize the time savings that can be achieved with DB/DBO, regulatory approval for portions of the construction may be sought based on partial submittals (i.e. site work). Work out a review process for partial design submittals acceptable to each of the regulatory agencies in advance of any submittals.
  7. Is project financing firm? If the project financing is not firm before seeking proposals, the experienced DB/DBO contractors will sense tentativeness and won’t submit proposals.
  8. Is there the will to make the contract award on other than low price? One of the appealing features of DB/DBO is that you are not compelled to award the project to the lowest cost proposer. You can consider quality and select the proposal that delivers the best overall value. However, some find it difficult to look past the lowest cost proposal and determine that the greater value delivered by a higher cost proposal justifies the higher cost.

Do these questions hit home for those of you who have done DB/DBO projects? Are there other questions you wished you would have asked before deciding? Join the conversation by posting comments below.
For a detailed discussion of alternative project delivery methods including DB and DBO, go to our Downloads page to find the paper “Alternative Project Delivery Methods – Do They Save Time and Money?”