Top 3 Qualities to Expect from a Quality Design-Build Contractor

by | Jan 19, 2021

As water/wastewater projects continue to increase in complexity, collaborative delivery methods for project execution are becoming increasingly favored among clients. As this shift gains momentum, clients need to be able to trust that their design-build contractor will help them realize the benefits of the collaborative delivery approach throughout the life of the project. The list below outlines several key qualities a water/wastewater client should expect from their design-build contractor.


Ensuring a unified team across the primary contractor, subcontractors, and owner is an important ingredient for successful project delivery. Throughout the project, partnering and task force sessions should take place regularly and include all stakeholders. Whether sitting together around a table or communicating virtually, having all stakeholders provide input toward timely and transparent decisions is invaluable to maintaining cost and schedule certainty.


The best-value approach to contractor selection incorporates evaluation criteria such as scope, quality, competency, schedule, and costs and incorporates an open-book pricing element, offering transparency for all stakeholders. To achieve transparency with the best-value approach, an experienced design-build contractor must be well-versed in design-build project control systems and processes. These project control systems are vital to managing risk by analyzing the cost, schedule, and constructability impacts of the evolving project design against existing risk items.


Design-build contractors should stay one step ahead of the unexpected, helping owners and developers navigate and mitigate risk throughout the project. A recent article by Tony Joyce, senior vice president and operations manager at Kiewit, details the expected risks an owner/developer may encounter during the course of a project. Risks will typically fall within one of the following categories:

  • Loss prevention: What measures can be taken to prevent or reduce the likelihood of adverse occurrences, and which party can most efficiently be responsible for taking these measures?
  • Loss control: What measures can be taken to minimize the extent of damage caused by an undesirable event, and which party can most efficiently take responsibility for these measures?
  • Third-party coverage: What forms of insurance are available to reimburse the organization for some (or all) of the losses incurred, and how cost-effective are these insurance policies compared with other risk-management alternatives?
  • Assumption of risk: Which party is best able to assume, manage, and be responsible for each risk?

In a collaborative delivery approach, a design-build contractor will help guide best-value decisions to ensure they are prioritized over lowest-price decisions. Team qualifications, project approach, solution concept, and price are all considered in tandem. By using best-available information and highly experienced professionals to develop comprehensive and exhaustive project execution plans, design-build contractors can provide owners and developers with the comfort that their projects will be delivered on time and within budget.

Guy Voss, Vice President, Sales - North America, Kiewit

As the vice president of sales for Kiewit’s North American water business, Guy is responsible for working closely with clients and partners to understand the needs of our water industry such that the appropriate collaborative design and construction solutions can be brought to bear. With close to 30 years in the engineering and construction industry, Guy has led globally dispersed, multidisciplinary design and construction teams on every continent except Antarctica. Throughout his career, Guy has been passionate about the benefits the collaborative-delivery process can provide teams and projects.