Design-build interests document best practices for project success

Through research, case studies and extensive industry input, the Design-Build Institute of America in Washington, D.C., has identified design-build best practices and implementing techniques that directly impact project performance. Its new “10 Design-Build Done Right Best Practices” report serves “as a single source that clearly defines fundamentals to significantly enhance superior project outcomes,” says DBIA Executive Director Lisa Washington, CAE. “With design-build currently at 40 percent of all non-residential design and construction, the impetus for owners to engage ‘Design-Build Done Right’ is at an all-time high. By applying DBIA Best Practices, owners and practitioners will unlock the inherent value of design-build project delivery.”

Best practices supporting effective design-build start during the owner’s procurement decision-making process and span through project execution, she adds, noting that Design-Build Done Right requires more than a good contract and appropriate risk allocation. Everyone from the owner to the subcontractors must understand the process and fully engage in the collaboration. DBIA categorizes the 10 best practices (and nearly 50 supporting implementing techniques) into three areas:

Procuring Design-Build Services. Three best practices address an owner’s project delivery system and procurement approach choices. An owner should conduct a proactive and objective assessment of the unique characteristics of its program/project and organization before deciding to use design-build. A procurement plan should then be implemented that enhances collaboration and other benefits of design-build and is in harmony with the reasons that the owner chose the delivery method.

Contracting for Design-Build Services. Three best practices expound upon the use of fair and clear contracts as fundamental to any delivery process. Contracts should be balanced and promote the collaborative aspects inherent in the design-build process. The owner and contractor should address the unique aspects of the design-build process, including expected standards of care for design services.

Executing the Delivery of Design-Build Projects. Four best practices highlight the need for all team members to be specifically educated and trained in the design-build process, and knowledgeable of the differences between it and other delivery systems. At project outset, the team should establish processes to facilitate timely and effective communication, collaboration, and issue resolution. Focus on the design management and commissioning/turnover processes and alignment among the design-build team as to how to execute these processes is also critical.

DBIA recognizes the real-world differences among design-build market sectors (e.g., water/wastewater, transportation, federal projects), and that implementation techniques might differ slightly from one market sector to another; consequently, the organization is in the process of working with market experts on sector-specific documents to supplement the overall best practices. The Institute intends to continually update its portfolio of publications, tools and other resources so that design-build stakeholders will have access to leading-edge information that will allow them to achieve Design-Build Done Right in accordance with the concepts expressed in the new document.

DBIA addresses conditions unique to building and infrastructure sectors in three titles within the new series. A comprehensive overview of the 10 Design-Build Practices is posted at