January 4, 2015

Legislature Amends Statutory Design-Build Contract Award Price Provisions

By Sarah S. Washburn

Public agencies are increasingly turning to the Design-Build project delivery system as a way to minimize risks for the project owner and to shorten the delivery schedule by overlapping the design and construction phases of a project.  During the Design-Build selection process, owners may use different methods to obtain price estimates from competing firms.  Under one method, the owner asks competing firms to provide price or cost-related factors during the selection process, with the total construction cost negotiated later when the design is sufficiently complete.  Under this method, which is often called “Progressive Design-Build,” the total construction cost is not known at the time of initial contract signing.  Under another method, the owner asks competing firms to quote a full price for project design and construction as part of the selection process.  This method is sometimes referred to as “Lump Sum Design-Build.”  In 2014, the Legislature amended RCW 39.10.330, which governs the Design-Build contract award process, to specifically permit public agencies to request “cost or price-related factors” rather than complete price during the selection process.  In doing so, the Legislature paved the way for public agencies to choose Progressive Design-Build and thus opt out of requiring competing firms to provide a complete price early in the process when not enough is known about the project.