Robert Connors, PE, CCS
In the final part of this three-article look at bridging documents for complex design-build (D-B) projects, various best practices are explored. The first two articles looked at project definition and risk allocation and procurement, respectively.
It is important to carefully select projects appropriate for design-build. Projects should have permitting, environmental clearance, and right-of-way acquisition prior to award of the D-B contract. Projects requiring a high level of definition prior to award will benefit less from this construction delivery method, as the project becomes more of a design-bid-build type process.
Selected projects should have a team ready to quickly review design submissions and manage construction issues. Timely responses are critical; it is important to maintain good communication between owner and D-B team.
The bridging team must support innovative approaches and project changes by the design-build team as long as they meet or exceed the project goals and fixed criteria. Developing overly prescriptive design criteria stifles innovation. Communicating the performance approach to bridging and owner staff, and providing examples and training, can reduce this problem.
People with prior successful D-B experience and those comfortable with the design-build project roles and responsibilities are necessary to avoid problems. People resistant to this construction delivery method can cause serious delays and claims. Management oversight and open communications are necessary to identify and minimize these issues.
During (or before) bidding, the owner and the bridging team should make necessary land acquisitions, identify all impacted utilities, and obtain necessary permits. When there are unknown utilities, all available information should be shared with the proposing D-B teams.
When possible, subsurface utility explorations should be undertaken. Permits cannot always be obtained until final design is complete or must be requested by the contractor. When permits cannot be obtained prior to the contract’s awarding, the owner and bridging team should meet with permitting agencies and share all information learned in the meetings with the proposing D-B teams.
Bridging document quality control
While bridging documents provide an incomplete design, they must show something feasible and of good quality because the owner warrants the sufficiency of documents given to proposing D-B teams. Bridging projects should have project manuals and project-specific quality plans; they must follow all design procedures, quality documentation requirements, and owner quality requirements.
These projects often take a large effort over a fairly short period, so training to get all team members up to speed on the project quality procedures as the project is initiated is advised. Coordination reviews are best performed in person with the required disciplines in the same meeting. This author has also found page-turn reviews with the owner project leaders, while time-intensive, are very beneficial to the bridging documents and the project.