Keeping Important Steps in a Progressive Design-Build Selection Process

by | Feb 5, 2020

So you are putting out a project and plan to use progressive design-build.You have been working with your procurement department and an owner’s agent who suggests a two-step procurement process following industry best practices, but the process seems like it takes forever:

  • Industry outreach meeting
  • RFQ advertisement
  • Pre-submittal meeting
  • Solicitation of SOQs and the shortlisting process
  • RFP to the shortlisted firms
  • Confidential meetings with the shortlisted proposers
  • Solicitation of RFP’s responses
  • Interviews with the shortlisted firms
  • Final selection

You cannot cut out the RFQ and RFP, so you think about dropping some of the other portions of the process to save time. Here are some reasons why these other steps are advantageous in the selection process.

An industry outreach meeting gives an owner the opportunity to make the industry aware of the project and provide basics on what the project is about. This spirit of openness with the design-build community will encourage teams to form, attract firms that may otherwise not pursue the work, give local small businesses the opportunity to interact with the design-builders, and provide a networking opportunity for all. The outreach event will also help minimize the amount of questions from the design-build community on the project and limit one-on-one discussions, which procurement does not like or even allow.

In my opinion, confidential meetings would be the last thing I would think of dropping from the selection process. For design-builders, this is a time for the team to bounce ideas and thoughts off of the owner’s team prior to developing a technical proposal and sometimes a price. The hours spent in a confidential meeting are invaluable to the design-build team and can help the design-builder focus on what is really important to the owner. Design-builder, use the time wisely. Be prepared, get the answers you want, and get feedback on alternatives to pursue. Do not make it scripted so that you look like actors—be yourself and interact with the owner. Owners, get a chance to see how the design-build team interacts in an informal atmosphere. Ask your own questions and see how the team responds, who responds, and do they know their stuff. Be honest and open with your responses; the meeting is confidential. A benefit of the progressive selection process is that you get to choose the team best qualified for your job and, by being transparent, help them understand your drivers and technical requirements better. Progressive design-build is about collaboration, and this is your first real chance to see how that is going to play out.

Interviews seem like overkill, but this (and the technical proposal) is the design-builder’s chance to show they heard you and learned from the confidential meetings. Design-builders, hopefully you listened and are able to convey what you heard. Owners, you have been through hundreds of these, but the process is almost done and this is your last chance to ask the team questions, or clarify what was in the proposals. 

In short, don’t shortchange important steps in the selection process if time allows. They all lend to an informed selection process and will benefit the project. Also, remember that what is required and/or allowed varies by state, so please be cognizant of your state’s requirements.

Bob Dudley, PE, Senior Division Officer-1, Ramboll

Bob Dudley, PE, is a senior division officer in Ramboll's water brand. He has more than 34 years of professional engineering experience in the water industry, including studies, planning, and design of potable water treatment, distribution, and storage facilities; residual handling and disposal; and wastewater collection and pumping facilities. He has led major, complex and diverse projects for clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.