Study Connects Project Delivery Methods / Sustainability Goals

December 4, 2009
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Washington, D.C. -- A study exploring the impact of project delivery methods and procurement procedures on achieving sustainable design and construction goals was released earlier this month. Sustainable, High Performance Projects and Project Delivery Methods: A State of Practice Report was commissioned by the Charles Pankow Foundation and the Design-Build Institute of America. This ongoing study is being conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Colorado, University of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania State University, and Michigan State University.

The first phase of the research aimed to determine the state of practice in green building project delivery and procurement. The full report of the first phase is available on the DBIA website. The initial findings show that integrated delivery methods such as design-build and construction manager at risk are superior in achieving or exceeding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification goals and that procurement procedure also have an impact on the level of sustainability achieved.

Researchers evaluated the three most common delivery methods: design-bid-build (DBB); construction manager-at-risk (CMR), and design-build (DB). Under DBB delivery method an owner contracts separately for the design and the construction phases, often awarding construction contracts to the lowest bidder. DB is a fully competitive project delivery system that awards contracts for both design and construction to a single entity composed of one or several firms. CMR is a delivery system in which the owner contracts separately but somewhat simultaneously with a designer and a contractor who not only performs construction management services but also has significant input during the design phase.

The five procurement procedures sampled in this study were low bid, best value, competitive negotiation, qualifications-based selection, and sole source.

To understand the state of practice, the research team employed a three-tiered research approach encompassing:

industry survey
content analysis
structured interviews

The industry survey elicited 230 responses from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professionals (LEED APs) regarding the project delivery methods, procurement procedures, and certification level on specific LEED certified projects. The content analysis was based on solicitation documents from 92 public and private projects representing over $2.2 billion in building investment. Structured interviews were conducted with members of the industry as well as with owners to help interpret the results. Responses were received from 47 of 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study found that all project delivery methods had been used to achieve all levels of LEED certification (certified, silver, gold, and platinum). It also found that all procurement procedures (low bid, best value, competitive negotiation, qualifications based selection, and sole source) had been used to achieve all levels of LEED certification. However, some delivery methods and procurement procedures were more successful than others. Success was assessed through the ratings by LEED APs who have completed LEED projects and by identifying those projects that met or exceeded their initial LEED rating goals. Two key facts relating to success are:

Integrated delivery methods (DB and CMR) are used in 75 percent of the projects surveyed; and

Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) procurement was most successful procurement procedure.

The ability to integrate construction knowledge early in design is essential to maximizing sustainability therefore strong preferences among LEED APS for integrated delivery methods on LEED projects is not surprising. Integrated project delivery methods either eliminate price competition or include price as one of several factors that determine the contract award. Sustainable, High Performance Projects and Project Delivery Methods: A State of Practice Report provides insights for owners seeking to achieve specific sustainability goals. While all project delivery methods are in use, integrated project delivery methods are most commonly applied to projects seeking LEED certification. If owners choose QBS procurement methods to select team members, they may increase their chances to meet or exceed their sustainability goals. Keith Molenaar, Ph.D., DBIA, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Douglas Gransberg, P.E., CCE, DBIA, of the University of Oklahoma will present will present their findings on November 5th, from 5pm to 6 pm. Press passes available. Email

The Charles Pankow Foundation was established in 2004 by Charles J. Pankow, a pioneer in the construction industry and the founder of Pankow Builders The foundation exists to advance innovations in building design and construction, so as to provide the public with buildings of improved quality, efficiency, and value. Learn more at

The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) was founded in 1993 in response to the emergence of design-build and integrated project delivery as a significant force in the design and construction industry. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and network of regions throughout the U.S., the Institute provides a forum for all participants in the design-build process, owners and practitioners alike. DBIA is the center of expertise for integrated project delivery, advocating best practices, creating and disseminating educational information, and furnishing advice and support to facility owners and users. Web site

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