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Lack Of Design-Build Authority An Obstacle To Hurricane Recovery

Hurricane Harvey flooding

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma carved wide paths of damage through Texas, The Caribbean and Florida, racking up what will surely be billions in combined damages. As affected areas mobilize for recovery, a key tool is missing in small communities that desperately need time and cost efficiencies to deal with the quickly mounting damage.

Texas’ design-build statute prohibits small communities from using design-build, making it difficult for them to respond as nimbly as cities over 100,000 in population. Texas law also limits TxDOT to only three state highway design-build projects per year, and those projects must cost $150M or more.

DBIA Executive Director/CEO Lisa Washington

Design-Build Institute of America CEO Lisa Washington said the design-build process is more cost-effective, faster and produces high-quality projects. On average, the design-build process saves 6% of the total project cost. Early collaboration means fewer change orders and a faster project, further lowering the cost. As a result of the collaborative process, design-build projects also see far less litigation.

Critics of the design–build approach claim the process limits the clients’ involvement in the design and allege that contractors often make design decisions outside their area of expertise. They also suggest that a designer — rather than a construction professional — is a better advocate for the client or project owner.

The design-build process was essential to recovery after Katrina, Irene and Sandy. After Katrina, the design-build process was used to rebuild the levees and the St. Bernard Parish pumping station. Much of the road construction after Irene and Sandy was completed with design-build.

The Pentagon after 9/11

Design-build even helped recovery efforts after 9/11. Phoenix Project, as it became known, aimed to reoccupy the damaged outer ring of the Pentagon by Sept. 11, 2002. Critics said the project, which entailed the complete demolition and reconstruction of the C, D and E Rings in the area of the boundary between the recently renovated Wedge 1 and the unrenovated Wedge 2, could not be completed in just a year.

To complete the work on time, the design-build process was implemented alongside the project's slogan, “Let’s roll,” as spoken by Todd Beamer on United Airlines Flight 93. The project was completed 28 days ahead of schedule and $194M under budget.

Preventing Texas’ small communities from using a proven and effective project delivery system that has rebuilt hurricane-ravaged towns and counties nationwide is an obstacle to Harvey recovery efforts. The governor of Texas has the authority to expand the use of design-build in the case of emergency.