How to Select a Project Delivery Method for School Facilities: The Fourth in Our Series on Improving Environments for Learning Explains the Project Delivery Methods Available and How to Select the Right One for Your Needs

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HOW CAN OUR FACILITIES IMPROVE students' learning environment? What is a facilities master plan? How do I select a professional planning or design firm?

The first three articles in this series offered insight and guidance on these key topics. This month, we focus on a vital decision that relates to all facilities construction projects--project delivery.

The Early Days

In the beginning, there were master builders. Prior to the industrial revolution, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, master builders designed and guided the construction of facilities. With the onset of the industrial revolution, science and mathematics were applied in many fields, including construction. The role of the master builder was replaced by architects and engineers, who applied the principles of math and science to design structures, and the craftsmen who built them.

This form of project delivery, called design-bid-build, was reinforced with passage of the Brooks Act almost 50 years ago. The Brooks Act requires a qualifications-based selection of design professionals for federal work. Design-bid-build is still the predominant method of project delivery for public works and school construction in the United States.

Design-Bid-Build

In design-bid-build, the owner hires a design professional to prepare a complete set of construction documents--plans, specifications and bidding requirements. When the documents are complete, the project typically is advertised publicly, bids are received, and the contract is awarded to the lowest, responsible bidder. In some states, the law requires that separate prime contracts be bid--typically for a general contract, a mechanical contract (heating, ventilating and air conditioning), a plumbing contract and an electrical contract. The design-bid-build form of delivery is legal in all states.

Into the 1970s, building design had become progressively more complex. Codes and regulations continued to expand. The foreign oil embargo threw the U.S. economy into a crisis. Driven by rising oil prices, inflation was running at double-digit rates nationally. Since so many building products and processes were based on derivatives of oil, building material costs were skyrocketing, and availability was uncertain. Environmental issues moved to the forefront with lead-based paints and asbestos--staples in the construction industry--identified as potential sources of liability. Project budgets and timelines were constantly in jeopardy.

In 1981, a walkway collapse in a Kansas City hotel focused the industry on professional liability issues. In a response to a flood of legal battles, the insurance industry advised the design community not to promise anyone anything. Design professionals could no longer use words like "guarantee," "inspection," or "warranty." Use of these words in contracts would jeopardize the ability of a design professional to obtain liability insurance. Owners, who for the past 200 years had retied on architects and engineers, were left out in the cold as design professions retreated from the liability-strewn landscape.

The Construction Manager

Contractors stepped into the void with the rise of a new delivery method--the construction manager (CM). Contractors dealt with guarantees and warrantees all the time. They had no problem making the promises that the design profession was unable to make.

The CM form of delivery developed in two variations--CM at risk and CM adviser (or agency). In the CM at risk form, generally, the owner hires a design professional and a CM to develop the design to certain level--often about 30 percent. At that time, the CM is required to submit a guaranteed maximum price (GMP). That price includes fixed costs and an agreed upon contingency. In this form, the CM bids and holds contracts for the construction and manages the schedule and subcontractors. There also may be a negotiation that provides incentive to the CM so that savings below the GMP are shared between the CM and the owner. …