(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN-03) and Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7) introduced the VA Design-Build Construction Enhancement Act of 2019, which encourages the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to use design-build construction in appropriate circumstances. Design-build is an innovative and effective method for managing construction projects that is widely used in the private sector and some parts of the federal government.
Said Rep. Banks, “Design-build is a proven way to deliver construction projects more effectively and quickly. VA has a multibillion-dollar backlog of construction projects but has never made much use of design-build despite it being available to the federal government for over 20 years. My legislation makes clear that design-build is available to VA and incorporates design-build training into the VA construction management curriculum. I want to make sure VA is using every available tool to deliver world-class facilities to our veterans.”
Said Rep. Perlmutter, “A lot of lessons were learned during construction of the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado – including the importance of proper execution of the integrated design-build construction method. When implemented successfully, the design-build method can help keep projects on time and within budget by leveraging the expertise of both a design firm and a construction contractor from the start. This legislation ensures the VA evaluates each new construction project objectively, including whether to use the design-build method, in order to successfully deliver projects on-budget and on-schedule for our nation’s Veterans.”
The federal government began widespread use of design-build construction in 1996. Design-build is a delivery method for construction projects that combines the architectural, engineering, and construction services into a single contract. It is an innovation from traditional design-bid-build construction, where design and construction are sequential and performed by different contractors. When used in appropriate circumstances, design-build construction can accelerate projects, reduce change orders, and increase warranty protections.
Some federal agencies use design-build construction frequently, while others, like VA, have limited experience with it. VA unsuccessfully attempted to use the “integrated-design and construct” method, which is somewhat similar to design-build, in the troubled Aurora, Colorado replacement medical center construction project. Some have interpreted this experience to mean design-build is unsuitable for VA, but this is a bad conclusion. Specifically, the VA Inspector General found that VA switched to this method in the fourth year of the project, when the vast majority of the design had already been completed, rendering it ineffective.