Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Guest Columnist

Design-build makes sense for Iowa

Students walk along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway and the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Thursday, March 14, 2019.
Students walk along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway and the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Thursday, March 14, 2019.

Change is hard — especially in a state accustomed to delivering infrastructure projects the same way for generations. With our infrastructure needs, Iowa can’t afford to continue to sit on the sidelines while the rest of nation delivers projects more efficiently using design-build. The Iowa Board of Regents recognizes this, however, you would never know it from the lopsided coverage (“Regents dig in on disputed building method,” July 7). A vocal industry group satisfied with the status quo and opposed to change has portrayed the use of design-build as virtual Armageddon for the state’s contractors and good governance. They also offer zero evidence to support those claims.

However, abundant research exists detailing design-build’s impressive cost and schedule efficiencies. Iowa’s Board of Regents’ successes can’t be ignored. The University of Iowa recently built two new dormitories. The Peterson Residence Hall used the traditional design-bid-build method and the other, Catlett Residence Hall, used design-build. Catlett Residence Hall was delivered in nearly half the time while also significantly reducing costly change orders resulting from design errors.

Design-build is the fastest growing and most popular delivery system in the nation for a reason. Its collaboration delivers projects twice as fast as traditional design-bid-build and continues to outperform all other delivery systems in cost, schedule, construction and delivery speed. That’s why Iowa groups including the Master Builders, Mechanical Contractors, League of Cities, the Iowa Chamber Alliance support legislation to allow state agencies the option to choose the best project delivery method to fit each project. Here’s the truth about design-build:

Myth: Design-build weakens competition when choosing the project team.

Fact: Just the opposite is true. With the traditional delivery method the primary factor considered in the competition is price. The design-build selection process, conversely, uses a rigorous competition procedure that focuses on qualifications, experience, technical approach, price, and other factors.

Myth: Design-build provides an opportunity for favoritism to enter into the contract award process.

Fact: Favoritism or patronage is the opposite of design-build best practices. While design-build allows for the considering of factors beyond just price — such as team qualifications and project innovation — this is done to achieve best value and superior projects.

Myth: On large design-build projects, big out-of-state companies will take work from local companies.

Fact: Actually, design-build is better than design-bid-build at addressing this fear. Traditional large design-bid-build projects will see both in-state and out-of-state contractors submitting ridiculously low bids in order to win the project, then force their subcontractors (which are often local) to lower their costs to meet the low-bid they offered. Because the primary focus is price, there is little incentive to truly collaborate with local firms.

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Why would anyone believe Iowa is incapable of doing what virtually every other state in the nation and the Federal Government do with great success? Design-build isn’t right for every project. However, it is an effective project delivery tool Iowa should have in its tool kit.

• Roch Player of Mount Vernon is chief engineer for GeoStabilization International.

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