DBIA white paper looks at specialty contractor role

Design-build projects are more successful if the specialty contractors are chosen from a prequalified pool, by negotiation, or by sole sourcing

October 01, 2002 |

At its annual conference in Denver earlier this month, the Design-Build Institute of America issued proposed guidelines for selecting specialty contractors. The document, which is still subject to review by members of the Washington, D.C.-based organization, will become part of the DBIA's Manual of Practice upon adoption.

Victor Sanvido, vice president for systems and operations at Southland Industries, Irvine, Calif., told a packed audience made up largely of specialty contractors that the most successful design-build projects have the specialty contractor selected before the design is 20% complete.

Design-build projects also are more successful if the choice of specialty contractors is limited to a prequalified pool or to those chosen by negotiation or sole source methods.

Having experienced specialty contractors in repeat relationships with a project team also resulted in the highest success rate, Sanvido said.

More than 150 attendees jammed the standing-room-only session at the Adam's Mark Hotel, an indication of interest in the topic.

Audience questions focused on issues such risk-sharing, insurance coverage, and the bidding process.

On this last subject, the draft white paper has some cautionary language for the design builder: "Under no circumstances should the design builder use open bidding," it states.

The document warns that such a process "can lead to adversarial relationships with other contractors with whom you have not worked," with each contractor trying to maximize its own profit at the expense of the team.

Open bidding can also lead to price "squeezing" by owners of anywhere from 0.5% to 2%. Instead, the draft encourages design-build specialty contractors to develop "a scope that more closely resembles the owner's actual requirements," which can realize "much larger savings."

Commenting on the DBIA draft were Richard Kunnath, president and CEO of Charles Pankow Builders Ltd., Altadena, Calif., and Joe Critchfield, head of his eponymous mechanical contracting firm in Menlo Park, Calif.

For more information or to comment on the draft, contact DBIA at www.dbia.org.

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