2012 Design-Build Conference & Expo Recap

The 2012 Design-Build Conference & Expo was held November 7-9 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  This annual Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) national conference is a favorite for exhibitors as the expo hall is not open while other conference activities are underway.  The setup allows exhibitors to attend the key note speaker presentations as well as the training sessions.

Beck Technology exhibited on the expo floor this year.  Some of the visitors to our booth included Gray ConstructionWoodward Design Build, and AECOM.  There were also several student visitors this year who were part of the design-build student competition.   Washington State came out on top of this year’s competition.

One of our team member’s gives us his take on his Design-Build Conference & Expo experience.

On Thursday morning, the general session had a substitute speaker due to Hurricane Sandy.   The stand-in was also from the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers, but from the local region.  The presentation described the ongoing work in the New Orleans area by USACE to reduce the risk of flooding after the Katrina disaster.  The scale was really quite staggering – approximately $15 billion of total contract value in flood walls, pump stations, and other drainage systems, $11 billion of which is already in place today.  At one point he shared a 19th century topographical map of the New Orleans area that was really interesting and hard to believe it was created without modern technology.  He also mentioned that their designs had to account for both the sinking of the structures on land and ocean level rise.

I attended several of the educational tracks on subjects including BIM, target value design, and Lean.  The track that I found most interesting was a discussion on the cost of participating in best value selection processes.  There was quite a bit of interaction from owners in the audience and the panel members who made some great points.  The issue described was the selection process favoring the quality of the design materials over the quality of the team or the value of the solution.  Whether this criterion is perception or reality, many teams are developing the design during the proposal stage to the degree that they are incurring hundreds of thousands in labor costs which are lost if they are not selected.  They said any stipends only covered a small fraction of the costs.   The big question was “What, if anything, should owners do about this problem?”

In summary, it was a great conference.  I logged some solid training, met some interesting people, and ate some fantastic food.  I’m looking forward to DBIA 2013 in Las Vegas!