Annual DBIA Conference Reflects Growth, Acceptance of Design-Build for Water/Wastewater

Kathy ShandlingThe Design-Build Institute of America?s 2014 Design-Build for Water/Wastewater Conference recently took place in San Jose, Calif., March 17-19. Presented by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and co-hosted by AWWA and WEF, the multi-day conference program was a huge success.

Roughly 800 key players and decision makers attended the conference this year ? representing municipalities as well as companies operating within the architecture, engineering, construction and acquisition arenas. The event was impressively supported by some well-known corporations such as AECOM, Arcadis, CH2M Hill, CDM Smith, Gannett Fleming, HDR, MWH Constructors, Parsons, Brown and Caldwell, Black & Veatch, Haskell, Kiewit, Schneider Electric, Skanska, URS, Layne, Garney Construction and Burns & McDonnell.

The opening day included a special session just for water systems owners. It served as a succinct introduction to the concept of design-build. There was also a second owner?s forum in the afternoon that allowed for an open, honest discussion. It provided water professionals and owners the opportunity to share views, answer questions and discuss how DBIA as an organization can help further the needs of water systems when it comes to the the design-build concept.

At the same time the owner?s forum was taking place, there was an afternoon practitioner?s session that pulled together individuals from the various private sector companies seeking to work with the municipal water systems on design-build, design-build-operate for water/wastewater projects, and finance-design-build-operate for water/wastewater projects.?

One point noted was that various engineering firms are very much embracing design-build for the water/wastewater infrastructure sector, recognizing the benefits it brings to a given water/wastewater project. In fact, Paul Shea, construction division president at CDM Smith, noted ?design-build continues to grow as a delivery alternative in the water industry? and CDM Smith has been delivering design-build water infrastructure projects for more than 20 years as the industry has evolved.?

The opening day of the Design-Build for Water/Wastewater Conference concluded with a keynote address delivered by Tony Parrott, executive director of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

Parrott talked about the importance of addressing the development of the utility of the future and the importance of accessing different tools in order to deliver successful capital projects. He specifically stressed the need to change the perception of the design-build concept among water utilities around the country.
?Design build has proven to be a tool that utilities can use to streamline project completion timelines and to save significant ratepayer dollars as compared to more conventional processes,? Parrott said.??As urban core communities face increasing regulations and unfunded mandates from the federal government, it is imperative that public utilities seek innovative project delivery methods and public-private partnerships and collaborations to lessen the burden on the rate paying community.?

Parrott?s presentation was followed by a reception in the exhibit hall, providing conference attendees with the chance to network and celebrate St. Patrick?s Day.

The second day of the conference opened up with a general session featuring the director of the Clean Rivers project, being implemented by DC Water. Carlton Ray, the director of the DC Clean Rivers project, noted that the project significantly enhances water quality in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and Rock Creek by removing more than 96 percent of the combined sewer overflow (CSO) from DC Water?s antiquated combined sewer system. He discussed the benefits of using design-build procurement over the past five years for roughly $1.2 billion dollars of the DC Clean Rivers project including large tunnel projects.

The general session was followed by a number of concurrent sessions. Conference attendees had the opportunity to choose four separate sessions: one addressed the use of design-build for a cogeneration upgrade; one that looked at the first design-build project, implemented by a California water district; one that focused on the role of design-build to help identify innovative solutions for a water treatment plant; and one that reviewed the role of progressive design-build structure.

A second set of concurrent sessions focused on topics like: the impact of a lawsuit that opened the door to the implementation of design-build, the experience by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it came to implementing a design-build contract for a wastewater treatment plant, and the role of DBFOO for select projects.

Later during Day 2, a full conference session with another owner?s panel took place in the exhibit hall. Four individuals including one from a private water company discussed the challenges their water/wastewater systems are facing and the potential role of the design-build model to help address these various challenges. A collection of afternoon concurrent sessions also looked at a number of topics such as the benefits of progressive design-build, the use of the design-build-operate (D-B-O) partnership to help meet both operational, construction and environmental challenges, using the design-build approach for a bio-solids upgrade and the role of an innovative design-build procurement approach.

The final day of the conference opened with a collection of concurrent sessions addressing topics such as: impediments in using design-build-CMAR delivery for water and wastewater projects; the use of design-build to address the water supply needs of a municipality in Texas; the role of lump sum procurement when it comes to innovation; and the issue of the ?O? word when it comes to a D-B-O contract.

A second collection of concurrent sessions also addressed topics such as: the role of progressive design-build, how to deliver an award-winning design-build project, the role of the design-build delivery approach on a U.S.-owned Pacific island, and how to tailor the design-build approach to help meet the needs of small- to mid-sized capital projects.

The Design-Build for Water/Wastewater Conference concluded with a joint luncheon program with both the water/wastewater attendees and the transportation infrastructure attendees who were just arriving for their two-day conference program. The luncheon program included a very interesting panel discussion that reviewed the DBIA best practices for water and transportation. It was noted by the moderator of the panel, Evan Caplicki, a partner at Nossaman LLP, ?DBIA has undertaken a concerted effort to prepare a set of design-build best practices that are applicable to all industries and address issues that translate directly to project performance.?

One of the panelists who represented the water sector perspective, Peter Kinsley, president of the Government, Health & Public Services Group at Haskell, noted ?as utility providers seek innovative ways to deliver their capital projects while facing financial, regulatory and environmental challenges, design-build continues to increase in use throughout the country due to the unique value-creating aspects of this project delivery method.?

The annual Design-Build for Water/Wastewater Conference is an event not to be missed. All participants working in the water/wastewater infrastructure and service sectors need to include this event on their must-attend conference list. After all, the design-build, the design-build-operate, and the finance-design-build-operate approaches have become critical, necessary options for the water/wastewater infrastructure and service sector.

Lisa Washington, DBIA executive director, applauded the presence of more water/wastewater system owners at the 2014 annual conference than in past years and commended DBIA?s new strategic partnerships with AWWA and WEF.

??Over 75 state design-build laws have been introduced across the country in recent years,? said Washington. ?Approximately, 70 percent achieved a favorable outcome ? all in 2013.??

I suspect the water infrastructure sector will be witnessing an interesting, proactive evolution as DBIA moves forward with their ongoing promotion of the importance of the design-build approach for municipal water/wastewater infrastructure projects. Stay tuned.

Kathy Shandling is executive director of the International Private Water Association (IPWA) and a frequent contributor to UIM.? ?

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