Launch Slideshow

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Holding steady and looking ahead

Holding steady and looking ahead

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SPECIAL DELIVERY

As budgets shrink, public agencies are exploring alternative project delivery methods. Arrangements such as public/private partnerships can help fill short-term funding gaps — assuming there are private funds to be had. Nearly a quarter of PUBLIC WORKS readers have tried a partnership at least once. Their opinions regarding the arrangement's effectiveness vary widely. Source: PUBLIC WORKS

Someone's got to do it

A jump in the use of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms indicates layoffs and hiring freezes are forcing more departments to rely more heavily on outside help. Nearly 70% of respondents expect to work with consultants as much as or more over the coming year. Only 20% predict a decrease. Source: PUBLIC WORKS

SURVEY RESPONDENT COMMENTS

Pros

Alternative contracting is one of many valuable tools in our toolbox for project delivery.

It's expensive but worth the investment in the long run, especially in areas outside our comfort and experience zone.

Due to short staffing and the inability to hire more employees, other options are currently in the plan.

Cooperation is the wave of the future to limit expenses.

Cons

We prefer traditional project delivery where contractors bid on detailed final plans. Design-build saves time but not necessarily money.

You run into problems not using lowest dollar amount, and most of the time you have to do extra work to get the job done.

Design-bid-build is the only way to go.

We tend to have more issues with public/private partnership construction projects. The city retains permit responsibility but doesn't have the authority to expend the money necessary to maintain compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements. Private entities doing construction management haven't wanted to expend the required funds, putting city inspectors in the awkward position of enforcing against the city.

Using construction-manager-at-risk can be a challenge. Some contractors attempt to deflect risk by operating these projects in the same or similar manner as a regular project. They try to push work and decisions — and thus responsibility and risk — back on to the owner.

Increased use of professionals is a direct result of finance source requirements. Our experience is that external funding requirements double the cost of projects due to exhaustive drawings, interim financing, and oversight requirements.

I don't like design-build projects. One went OK, one was too slow. We'll probably never do another one.

Mixed reviews

It varies with the partner and project. Some have been great and very successful; some dreadful disasters.

Each method has its own rewards and constraints.

Construction-manager-at-risk and design-build are more difficult to manage because most authorizing councils/boards are used to “here's the price”/“here's a change order” way of doing business.

Construction-manager-at-risk worked well from our point of view, but was too expensive for the city council and many residents.

Limitations

The state legislature gave us permission for 13 design-build projects, one of which can be best value. We were also received permission for two public/private partnerships, of which only one has proceeded.

Iowa law requires design-advertise-award-build.

New York State has strict limits under Wicks Law, a 1912 construction mandate to promote competition and protect workers' rights, which local officials try to steer around with requests for proposals, modified American Institute of Architects agreements, or build-to-spec long-term leases.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding comes with a lot of strings.