Public Law

Public Law Journal: 2017, Vol. 40, No. 3

Demystifying Design-Build Projects—Procurement Tips for Local Agencies

By Maggie W. Stern*


In 2014, the California Legislature passed SB 785, which authorizes the use of the design-build project delivery method for local agencies under Public Contract Code § 22160 et seq. SB 785 repealed many of the previous statutes authorizing local public agencies to use the design-build method to build approved projects. The design-build method is an advantageous, and often under-utilized, mechanism for agencies to complete public works projects.

In contrast to the traditional design-bid-build approach, the design-build delivery method streamlines project delivery as the project designer and contactor are under the same contract. Under the design-build method, the local agency contracts with a design-build firm to design and build the project. Often, the firm may be an entity formed solely for the delivery of a specific project. A traditional project delivery requires at least two procurement processes, including a request for qualifications (RFQ) / request for proposal (RFP) for the design services and a competitive bidding process for contractor selection. Design-build can speed project delivery by omitting the second procurement process, thus eliminating the time gap between plan development and construction commencement. The projects also typically result in fewer change orders, and when design changes are required, they typically occur faster. With the right project management, design-build projects can be very effective.

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