Building more than infrastructure with the design-build method

Posted in: Bridges, Municipal, Transportation

teamwork_bodyDesign-build projects are all about integration – not just of design and construction, but of people and ideas. Technically, the design-build method accelerates the construction process by combining the designer and contractor to deliver a bridge, airport, dam or other infrastructure. In my experience, design-build is much more than that. It is about people, diverse groups each bringing their unique perspectives to the project to make it the best. Below are three things I have learned throughout my design-build experience.

We build teams, not projects.

When starting a design-build project, every person on the team is essential. From the marketing team during the proposal process to the quality control staff reviewing plan sets, each individual plays a role that pushes the project one step further. Taking time to build familiarity between team members helps establish a successful project outcome. We hope this occurs in formal meetings, but I’ve learned that effective team collaboration is usually developed outside of scheduled progress meetings. Successful teams are comfortable expressing creative ideas that achieve the project objectives independent from existing published plans. Not only does the team drive design innovation, but it minimizes delays.

The team members aren’t the only people who matter, though. It is only with a strong team that we can put the end-users first: owners, businesses, regulatory agencies and, most importantly, the public. Focusing on the infrastructure users instead of the infrastructure itself shifts the team’s focus and goals. They will want to do what’s best for the project, client and the public, and it will reflect in their interactions with the project stakeholders.

We create solutions, not paperwork.

From proposal to construction, design-build professionals seek solutions to any underlying problems. Our objective is not to augment the existing design. Instead, we look to create innovative and objective solutions to the owner’s underlying needs. Finding a solution is important, of course – but we value the ideas and the approach used to arrive at the result. This holds true for design as well as construction, where the unexpected requires timely and creative problem-solving. It is our duty to find solutions that achieve the contract objectives while keeping fast-paced projects on track. Having a truly cohesive team means that, when the unexpected happens (which it will), your team will pull through.

We improve the industry, not just ourselves.

So what do we do with our team-building and problem-solving approaches to design-build projects? Keep it to ourselves? No! We work to improve the industry. Sharing information, presenting at conferences and writing Design-Build Institute of America best practices like those found in the Universal Best Practices guidebook is how we advance the design-build process. Some may ask why share these valuable lessons learned? Our efforts maintain and improve the health of the industry and, in turn, yield better projects. And when we create better projects, we’re improving the lives of the people who use the facilities we design and build every day. Winning and delivering a successful project are great, but improving our industry and communities is what I call design-build done better. This is what Mead & Hunt was founded on.

Ben Dzioba

About the Author

Ben Dzioba, PE, PMP, DBIA is a licensed engineer, certified project management professional and design-build professional. He is on numerous national committees and a 2017 DBIA Transportation Leadership award recipient. He is also the past-president of the DBIA-Upper Midwest Region and one of Mead & Hunt’s design-build leaders. If you have questions about the design-build process and how to build both teams and projects, Ben has answers.

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