How to Develop a Successful Transit Facility Project (Part II)

Posted on June 26, 2013 by Fred Gilliam and Ken Anderson

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South Bend, Ind.-based TRANSPO’s Emil “Lucky” Reznik administration, maintenance & operations facility.
South Bend, Ind.-based TRANSPO’s Emil “Lucky” Reznik administration, maintenance & operations facility.
As discussed in Part I of “How to Develop a Successful Transit Project,” (METRO June 2013) planning for new, expanded or renovated transit facilitates can begin years before an agency issues a request for proposal (RFP). Although there are countless factors to consider before an owner-agency issues an RFP, this article will focus on two significant decisions: selecting a contracting method and choosing an ideal design team.

In today’s transit environment, owner-agencies typically choose one of four contracting models: design-bid-build, design-build, construction manager at risk, or a form of public-private partnership. Each has advantages and disadvantages and most can be customized to fit a particular agency or project’s needs; however, it is important to remember that the method chosen will set the tone for the project by establishing the parameters of the owner-agency’s relationship with the design team.

Selecting a contracting method
Design-bid-build. In a design-bid-build (D/B/B) model, the owner-agency contracts with an architect to develop a project through the complete design process. The owner then uses that design product to engage a contractor for construction under  a separate contract. A  D/B/B contract can allow the client more control over a project’s design as well as construction cost if a competitive bidding process is utilized. This process is popular with agencies that are in a position to take advantage of the current, favorable competitive bidding environment.

Design-build. The design-build (D/B) process necessitates that the architect and the contractor form one team under one procurement contract to develop both the project’s design and construction in tandem. Due to the restrictions of Federal funding, D/B in the transportation realm can be preceded by the development of bridging documents, which provide the D/B teams with a design that is 20% to 30% complete. D/B can offer up-to-the-minute costing information, including increases in material/installation costs that, in turn, enable architects to make appropriate changes to the design without adversely affecting a project’s delivery date. D/B contracts may call for an owner’s representative to help maintain a horizontal relationship between the owner-agent and the architect, contractor and other project vendors.

At the Denver Central Platte Campus (design-build team: RNL-Pinkard Construction), Michael Sheehan, senior engineer and design-build project manager, was engaged by the City and County of Denver to navigate through Denver’s first contractor-led design-build project. According to Sheehan, “because of the critical nature of Central Platte’s tight schedule, the design-build delivery method was the city’s best option for success. The City and County was impressed with the way a professional and committed team with the right delivery method can streamline the design and construction process.”  

Construction manager at risk. A construction manager at risk (CM@R) contract can feel similar to D/B but in fact the architect and the contractor are procured under separate contracts. Although CM@R requires that the owner-agency issue and manage two procurement contracts, it also provides the owner with more control over management and decision-making during both the design and construction phases of the project.  

Public-private partnership. Finally, public-private-partnership (PPP), a procurement model that has become more prevalent in recent years, requires bidding teams to provide some level of private equity or financing in addition to design and construction services. Although this model is more complicated than traditional procurement methods, it can be effective for a project that is not currently in an agency’s capital improvement plan or capital budget.

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