Unleashing the Power of Progressive Design-Build for Water Agency Projects: A Former GM's Perspective

Aug 17, 2023
By: Kim Adamson, Kiewit

In the ever-evolving world of water projects, the concept of Progressive Design-Build (PDB) has emerged as a game changer. As a former water agency general manager who was stuck in a “lowest-cost, bid-build” world, I would have jumped at the chance to choose my contractors based on qualifications rather than the lowest price. It’s a familiar, often even a helpless feeling: when you open the bids, and the lowest bidder is very low and well known for underbidding and making it up in change orders. It’s the start of a very adversarial process that becomes a major headache for the owner.

Enter PDB. This delivery model simplifies processes, fosters collaboration (something we all love), and provides the best lifecycle solution, as successful project outcomes can be agreed to at the beginning of the project. PDB is quickly being added as a project delivery option across the country.

So, what can PDB do for you? Let’s hit some of the top benefits:

  • Streamlined Process: Keep it simple! Gone are the days of convoluted project delivery methods. PDB refreshingly takes a streamlined approach by integrating design and construction phases. By involving the designer and contractor as an integrated team from the outset, you eliminate communication gaps and minimize the risks of budget overruns and schedule delays. PDB brings efficiency and effectiveness to project execution, giving you more time to focus on strategic decision-making.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: You know that feeling when you help a room full of divergent stakeholders navigate to and achieve a common goal? Well, a successful PDB job will bring you that same feeling of accomplishment. A project team of the owner, contractor, and key designers creates a dynamic and integrated approach to project development. The collective expertise and perspectives of all parties come together, allowing for innovation, problem-solving, and holistic development of projects. PDB nurtures open lines of communication and paves the way for quick issue resolution.
  • Risk Management: Water projects come with their fair share of risks. PDB brings with it a proactive risk management approach. By involving the contractor's expertise during the design phase, you can identify and mitigate potential risks early on. Value engineering, constructability reviews, and risk assessments become second nature. With PDB, you can avoid costly surprises and keep projects on budget and on schedule.
  • Cost and Time Savings: When you really need a project completed because it’s a critical part of your system, that’s where PDB really shines. We’ve all tried to speed up projects by using “owner-supplied” long lead-time items. That brings a host of problems related to warranties, and we all know contractors are charging us for the risk of owner supplied equipment issues, resulting in a higher cost for utilities. In PDB, long lead-time items can be identified early, and the design-build contractor can order them while the design progresses. You have one point of responsibility and no risk of finger pointing when things go wrong.


Timeline Comparison of Design Bid Build and Progressive Design Build Projects

Progressive Design-Build will transform the water agency project landscape. I would have loved to have had this kind of collaborative process available earlier in my career when I managed public water and wastewater utilities. It’s energizing and exciting to see first-hand the collaboration and benefits that PDB brings to owners. It’s even more invigorating to be a part of revolutionizing our industry and the way we build sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective water infrastructure for our communities.

Kim_AdamsonKim Adamson is a Vice President and Business Line Manager at Kiewit where she is focused on helping clients solve their water challenges to foster sustainable communities and development. She has worked in nearly all aspects of water management in her more than 25-year career. In addition to driving education around the importance of water, Kim is also an advocate and mentor for women in the water industry.

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