When the great floods of 2010 washed out the Laurel Avenue bridge in Coventry, Rhode Island transportation officials were under pressure to rebuild it faster than the state’s traditional bidding rules for construction projects would allow.
So R.I. Department of Transportation leaders looked for a faster way, one they had just started using on the Wickford Junction train station project in North Kingstown, an alternative project-delivery system known as design-build.
Unlike the traditional project-procurement process, where DOT engineers would design the new bridge and then seek bids from contractors interested in erecting it, design-build would see the whole package, design and construction, put out to bid. Whoever won the bid would then be responsible for designing and building the project under one contract.
The winning bid was for $2.9 million from Cardi Corp. and was finished $500,000 and one year below initial estimates.
“Because of the flooding we wanted to get it done as quickly as possible,” said Bob Smith, deputy chief engineer at DOT. “Using this method we were eliminating a phase, materials could be ordered immediately and the contractor could get to work right away. With that project and Wickford Junction, we were probably able to save 12 to 18 months.”
The idea of putting the responsibility for design and construction of building projects under one contract is not new. It’s been growing in use in the United States for the last decade. Before the advent of the design-bid-build method it was the default delivery system for European master builders.
But the momentum behind design-build delivery is spreading into new segments of the market and areas of the country, such as Rhode Island, where it had been slow to catch on.
“We definitely see an increase in the volume of our work that is going the direction of design-build,” said Dave Prengamen, principal at Vision 3 Architects in Providence, which has collaborated on design-build projects in recent years, including the Polyrack North America headquarters in Cumberland, the Miles Standish Medical Center in Taunton, the University of Rhode Island’s “surge building” in South Kingstown and Falvey Cargo Underwriting’s headquarters in North Kingstown.