With an ever-growing list of urgent water and wastewater infrastructure projects, the industry’s demand for expedited project delivery has increased, and project procurement is often overlooked as a way to get your job started—and finished— faster. Early collaboration enables “quick-start” procurement that contributes to achieving an owner’s schedule and cost commitment, with both the owner and design-builder reaping benefits.

Historically, a design-heavy design-build (DB) project procurement approach, while at times effective, can also be lengthy and result in less than favorable outcomes. Progress from an owner’s decision to plan a DB project through preliminary design to support RFP preparation, design-builder procurement, estimate and cost development, design, construction, and commissioning can be vulnerable to delays. These delays are often caused by limited opportunities for impactful, cost-saving innovation, imbalanced performance responsibility, and insufficient operations staff participation, while increasing an owner’s procurement and project costs.

Quick-start procurement offers a remedy by moving owners and design-builders swiftly through the procurement process by leveraging early collaboration to eliminate duplicative design efforts, maximizing early innovation, and obtaining the earliest possible cost certainty. With this procurement method, the owner advisor can focus on developing a high-level concept design that adequately frames the project requirements instead of spending time unnecessarily developing an extensive preliminary design. Then, the design-builder can more quickly and effectively engage to move the project forward, allowing the owner advisor to engage where their time is more valuable. With less design included in the RFP, the entire RFP process is expedited, full design risk is clearly shifted to the design-builder, the design-builder develops the project plan with all the details of the project delivery much earlier, and the DB team can engage operations and maintenance staff to help develop all of the details of project implementation. Project schedules and duplicative design work are reduced while enhancing early operator engagement, resulting in lower cost and effectively managed performance risk.

Quick-start procurement provides multi-tiered benefits and will:

  • Expedite project completion
  • Increase collaboration
  • Reduce project cost by maximizing innovation, eliminating design overlap, and shortening the project schedule
  • Reduce performance risk by concentrating accountability for design with the design-builder
  • Engage operations staff more deeply and consistently in all project elements

An owner and design-builder’s influence on construction and operations and maintenance costs is greatest in the earliest stages of project design and diminishes quickly as the design progresses. ‘Quick-start procurement creates early project momentum so that the most innovation and best risk management plans result from the owner’s full collaboration with the design-builder, beginning at the earliest design stage. This begins at the initial ramp-up period after project award, when the design-builder collaborates with the owner and its advisors to clarify the intent of the contract specifications, offer cost-effective design and construction ideas, resolve design and constructability issues, and begin the submittal review process.

Cost of duplicative design work occurs when the design-builder’s engineer, as the engineer of record, must confirm all design assumptions included in an owner’s RFP. If the owner’s RFP includes extensive design, calculations must be verified, assumptions tested, questions asked, critiques offered, alternatives considered, technical debates resolved, and a variety of other engineering work must be completed for the design-builder to accept full responsibility for the designed and built work. The cost of this preliminary engineering work is included in the design-builder’s cost proposal and is partly redundant with engineering that an owner has paid for during RFP preparation. These redundant costs are eliminated when the procurement documents include initial design concepts and project performance requirements only.

Quick-start procurement also engages operators earlier, and in a meaningful way, during conceptual design. Minimizing the impact of construction within an operating treatment plant requires a thorough understanding of what makes the facility and its staff best able to perform their functions. Including the design-builder at the earliest possible stage of design allows the entire project delivery team to work together from early concept development to minimize the impact of the selected design and details of construction upon plant operations. The risk of process failure during construction is minimized by having the design-builder’s full team involved in all early design work in partnership with operations staff.

With increasing project and stakeholder demands, the design-build market must remain diligent in uncovering new methods of gaining efficiency on behalf of its owners. Quick-start project procurement lowers risks by maximizing innovation across all elements of project development and delivery, increasing accountability, and moving appropriate performance risks to the design-builder. This streamlined design-build procurement process helps owners meet their commitments by demonstrating to regulators, constituents, and stakeholders that the project is progressing to market quickly and in a manner that maximizes the value of design-build project team collaboration.