What is Design-Build?


Norma Houston of the North Carolina School of Government writes the following:

In 2013, the General Assembly enacted legislation authorizing three new contracting methods for public construction projects: design-build (DB), design-build bridging (DBB), and public-private partnerships (P3). S.L. 2013-401/H8571 (Public Contracts/Construction Methods/DB/P3) accomplishes this in three primary ways:

1. Amends G.S. 143-128 authorizing these new construction delivery methods for large building construction projects.

2. Requires governmental units to enter into these contracts under the qualifications-based selection method of G.S. 143-64.31 (the Mini-Brooks Act).

3. Establishes specific procurement requirements for each type of contract by enacting three new statutes: G.S. 143-128.1A (for DB), G.S. 143-128.1B (for DBB), and G.S. 143-128.1C (for P3).

The new delivery methods are authorized for any state and local government construction project provided that the statutory requirements are met. The legislation also imposes more stringent reporting requirements on public entities utilizing both the new construction delivery methods and construction management at risk. Finally, the legislation places a cap on the ability of local governments to exempt themselves from the Mini-Brooks Act.

Prior to H857’s enactment, state law authorized four contracting methods for large building construction projects: single-prime, separate-prime (also referred to as multi-prime), dual-bidding (bidding both single- and separate-prime simultaneously), and construction management at risk.2 Design-build and P3 were considered alternative construction methods requiring either State Building Commission approval or legislative authorization. While design-build and P3 were not statutorily restricted for building construction projects costing $300,000 or less3 or projects that did not involve a building (such as installing sewer pipes or erecting a water tank), the competitive bidding requirements of Article 8 of Chapter 143 made entering into these contracts both legally and practically unwieldy. Consequently, it was not uncommon for the General Assembly to pass local bills authorizing individual local governments to use design-build or public private partnerships for specific projects. For example, during the 2013 session, Buncombe County (S.L. 2013-31 and -40), the Town of Clinton (S.L. 2013-115), and the Town of Cornelius (HS.L. 2013-352) were authorized to use design-build, and Onslow County received authorization for a public private partnership project (S.L. 2013-37). H857 presumably eliminates the need for these types of local acts.

Design Build Contracting

The design-build method is an integrated approach to a construction project that delivers both design (architectural and engineering) and construction services under one contract with a single point of responsibility. Under this project delivery method, the public owner is provided the benefit of the design team and contractor working together to achieve the public owner’s objectives under a single contract. The designer works directly for the contractor instead of the owner.

Design-build is sometimes confused with construction management at-risk (CMR), which unlike design-build, has been an authorized building construction method under G.S. 143-128 for over a decade. One fundamental difference between design-build and CMR is that, under CMR, the local government is required to contract separately with an architect and/or engineer for design services, while a design-build project involves a single contract with both the design professional and the contractor encompassing the design and construction phases of the project. Under CMR, the designer works for the public owner; under design-build, the designer works for the contractor.

Under the design-build method, project specifications are not drawn prior to initiating the procurement process. Instead, the project owner advertises general information about the project and selects the design-builder based on the firm’s (or individual’s) qualifications to design and construct the project. Once under contract, the design-builder (oftentimes a team comprised of the designer and the general contractor) works with the owner to design the project based on the owner’s project criteria, usually by preparing a preliminary design followed by detailed specifications after the owner’s approval of the preliminary design. The design work can be done in phases, allowing construction to commence and proceed in phases to expedite project completion, or the design work can be finalized prior to construction. Under both systems, the designer continues to work with the builder throughout the project addressing unforeseen issues or design revisions as the project proceeds.

The new design-build statutes define a design-builder as “an appropriately licensed person, corporation, or entity that, under a single contract, offers to provide or provides design services and general contracting services.”6 Architectural and engineering services must be performed by licensed architects and engineers, and contracting services must be performed by a licensed general contractor. While it is possible for one individual to hold both an architect or engineering license and a general contractor license, a design-builder typically is a corporation or firm that employs both licensed designers and licensed general contractors, or a construction firm that subcontracts with an architect or engineer. The new design-build statute requires the design-builder to certify that each licensed designer and subconsultant who is a member of the design-build team was selected based on “demonstrated competence and qualifications” under the qualifications-based selection process of the Mini-Brooks Act (G.S. 143-64.31).

To enter into a design-build contract, the unit of government must follow specific procurement procedures set out in the new G.S. 143-128.1A.


Design-Build and the Montreat Town Hall

At the May 10th, 2018 Regular Board of Commissions meeting the Commission approved criteria for utilizing the Design-Build method for contracting and approved Design-Build for the the Montreat Town Hall. You may read the minutes and supporting documents from that meeting by visiting the “Open Government” page or by clicking here.