2013 DBIA Conference & Expo Recap

Here is our take on the event.

The 2013 DBIA Conference and Expo was held at The Mirage in Las Vegas on November 4-6.  The attendees of this event are seeking innovative teaming partners as well as owners who see the design and construction industry evolving.  Several of the sessions discussed design-build project highlights in addition to a change of mentality.

I attended ‘Pioneering the Wyoming Frontier – The First Design-Build Project for the Wyoming Military Department’.  The owner, design-build consultant, general contractor and architect were on the panel.  It was interesting to hear how the government had to adapt to a design-build platform including contracting, scheduling and budgets.  Their hurdles were overcome by the work of their design-build consultant, Design-Build Solutions, LLC, helping them every step of the way.  The general contractor (Hensel Phelps) and architect (Fentress Architects) also played a major part in seeing the project come to fruition as they co-located and increased their levels of communication.  Pete LeClair of Hensel Phelps said, “Communication is the foundation to trust for a design-build project.”

The budget for the project was determined in 2008 but it was not awarded until 2011.  The budget was a critical aspect of the project which meant the entire team utilized 3D coordination.  Plus, the project was ultra-fast track with owner changes after the project was awarded.  Fentress Architects held weekly design meetings with the entire team.  These meetings prompted owner decisions and kept design moving forward.

I also attended ‘Greening GSA’s Portfolio: Aggressive Sustainability Targets Met Through Design-Build Project Delivery’.  The panel included Sellen Construction, ZGF Architects and U.S. General Services Administration.  Again, the theme from the general contractor revolved around trust amongst team members.  Jack Avery of Sellen Construction said, “Trust, collaborative spirit and early sub integration were keys to a successful project.”

The USACE project that the team worked on in the U.S. northwest was designed and built to meet 2030 energy goals as well as create a collaborative workplace.  Again, having a tight budget and fast track project led to innovative design and construction decisions like installing the geothermal system at the same time as pile drilling.  Rick Thomas of U.S. GSA said, “When you have good business sense and collaboration you can get more bang for the buck on projects.”

All of the sessions I attended at the conference had the same recurring theme: collaborate as a team to produce the best possible product.  Each project presented at the conference had various challenges but each team stated open communication helped them get past those hurdles.

During several sessions, the government’s lack of design-build on more projects was presented as a barrier.  The federal employees on panels stated that it is an uphill battle for them since their system is taking much more time to adapt to design-build parameters such as stipends and early procurement.  However, the successful federal design-build projects have been great case studies to encourage more design-build projects.

Next year’s DBIA Conference and Expo will be in Dallas at the downtown Sheraton on October 4-6.  The educational sessions are well worth the time to attend the event.  The keynotes, networking and expo part of the conference are extra bonuses that make this conference well-rounded and enjoyable.