State of the Design-Build Union

Panelists: Dan Zalkow, AICP, Portland State University, Paul Odenthal, PE, CEM, Oregon State University, Steve Tatge, University of Washington, Jennifer Taylor, LEED, Oregon Health & Science University, Krista Phillips, FAIA, NCARB, Portland Community College, Jason Baerlocher, Washington State University


The kick-off session brought together a “Who’s Who” of architects, engineers, planners, and project managers from colleges and universities in Oregon, Washington, and California, each with varying degrees of experience with design-build. All agreed that trust and chemistry are key to a successful team, but that teams can form in a variety of ways. San Diego State University encourages teams to self-select, while others prefer a more hand’s-on approach and higher level of involvement. University of Washington is experimenting with bundling smaller projects into one larger, design-build project, while Portland State University has yet to find the right project for its foray into design-build. Regardless of the method, demonstrating strong bonds and relationships among teammates is paramount in the selection process, and a significant determinate in the overall success of the project.


BPA’s Shift to Progressive Design-Build

Panelists: Christina Craig, BPA, Thane J. Miller, BPA, Jonathan A. Malmberg, PE, BPA, Matthew Balogh, BPA, Becky Duoos-Bourgazas , BPA, George E. Wespi, PMP, BPA 


Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has historically used the Design-Bid-Build delivery method, but began exploring EPC, CM/GC, Design-Build, and Progressive Design-Build on projects over the past few years. Building on their success with CM/GC on a facilities project at the Ross Complex in Vancouver, Washington, the decision was made to move forward with Progressive Design-Build methodology on all new contracts at the Ross Complex over the next 10 years, as well as for future substation and transmission line projects. 


The Design/Preconstruction Manager: Keys for Success in this Pivotal D-B Role

Panelists: Ellen Mulvanny, LEED AP, B+C, Clark Construction, John Medvec, AIA, DBIA, LEED, AP B+C, M+NCARB, Skanska, USA Inc, Jeannie Natta, Associate DBIA, University of Washington, Sian Roberts, FAIA, The Miller Hull Partnership, Shardul Singh, Katerra


The most popular topic, this session covered how pre-construction managers can set a team apart, the ideal skills of a design manager and how to develop them, and how to manage communications between diverse team members. Arguably one of the most important roles on the team, the design/pre-construction manager must wear multiple hats, and understand and have compassion for the multiple and oftentimes competing perspectives of contractors, architects, engineers, and trade partners. They are the team mediator and play “clean-up.” Pre-con managers are technically sound and have a high level of situational awareness at all times – they know where the team’s at on any issue at any given time.  As process champions and natural team players, they’re inquisitive, structured, inclusive, and versatile. Their relationship with the architect is essential, and the importance of forward thinking cannot be underestimated. Skilled design managers are frequently called upon to condense large quantities of information for concise decision making. They also check the box of “translator”, and as unsung linguists, they facilitate conversations between owners, architects, and engineers so that all parties feel heard and understood. Communications are structured so that team members feel comfortable talking with each other, and if/when “things” are missed, a good pre-con manager practices forgiveness.


“How to Mass Timber”: Leveraging Design-Build for Mass Timber Projects

Panelists: Joe Swank, LEED AP, DBIA, Hacker, Erica Spiritos, Swinerton


Mass timber is quickly becoming the belle of ball in the Pacific Northwest given its efficiency, speed, precision, and versatility in construction for low- and high-rise applications. While many questions still need to be asked and answered, building codes are evolving, and we’re figuring out how to best incorporate MEP systems on each successive project. After some trial and error, it’s been determined that BIM modeling should be brought in before the mechanical and electrical subs. Cross-laminated timber is a source of LEED points, and lighter by weight, it assists with schedule optimization. Other benefits of mass timber include reduced construction time, increased speed to market, and smaller crews.


The Evolving Role of the Engineer in Design-Build

Panelists: George Shaw, FAIA, LEED AP, LMN Architects, Josh Richards, PE, SE, KPFF Consulting Engineers, Ed Jones, PE, Wilson Jones Commissioning, Creighton Kearns, PE, Total Mechanical, Troy Thrun, Stantec, Justin Steinkamp, PAE Consulting Engineers 


So, what do you think – does design-build pose an opportunity or threat to the engineering community? After careful consideration, our panel said, “it depends.” Ten years ago, it was clearly a threat, but today, design-build presents engineers with opportunities to be a “process partner”, and to get involved early on in a project’s life cycle. It can be more efficient than other project delivery methods, but on the downside, questions about constructability remain. And if trade partners self-perform, engineering consultants are left on the outside looking in. The extent to which design-build impacts relationships between engineers, contractors, trade partners, and architects largely depends on trust, understanding, and empathy among team members.