California reforms infrastructure delivery with sweeping design-build authorization

The Design Build Institute of America salutes the passage of SB 785, culminating a longtime effort to standardize Golden State design-build laws, and representing the eighth bill expanding design-build authority that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed over the past year.

SB 785 streamlines California design-build laws and provides clarity and increased opportunity for project owners and practitioners, DBIA contends. While design-build was first authorized in California more than 20 years ago, legislators went on to pass statutes that included numerous limitations to utilizing the project delivery method that resulted in many challenges, inconsistencies and confusion. SB 785 allows state agencies previously precluded by law from combining design and construction services into a single contract, or using a best-value selection process to fully benefit from design-build delivery through expanded authorization.

“In practical terms, this patchwork of laws was so confusing that agency heads and practitioners would often use a less efficient delivery method, design-bid-build, simply to avoid the legal confusion design-build caused in California,” explains DBIA Director of State/Local Legislative Affairs Richard Thomas. “Project managers often wanted to use design-build to deliver higher-quality projects in less time with fewer change-orders, but wading through the myriad regulations simply became too time-consuming.

“SB 785 changes things for the better. [It] streamlines regulations so that design-build is easy to use. Thanks to this law, it is likely even more of California’s infrastructure will be built using the more efficient design-build project delivery method.”

Among California agencies that stand to benefit from SB 785, DBIA notes: Department of General Services and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for public works projects in excess of $1,000,000; and, Sonoma Valley Health Care District and the Marin Healthcare District, for hospital or health facility buildings and related improvements.

Design-build project delivery is an integrated approach that offers design and construction services under one contract with a single point of responsibility. Across the country and around the world, the design-build method nets office buildings, schools, stadiums, transportation and water infrastructure projects with superior results. Benefits include faster delivery, cost savings and better quality than through traditional contracting methods, DBIA officials note. A single entity decreases owners’ administrative burden and allows them to focus on successfully delivering the project, rather than managing separate contracts. The approach also reduces their risk and results in fewer litigation claims for all parties involved.