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Architects Call for Design-Build Reform

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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U.S. architects are calling on lawmakers to reform the federal government’s design-build contracting process.

Current rules cost design and construction firms more than $260,000, on average, to compete for a federal design-build project, according to a recent survey published by the American Institute of Architects.

The federal contracting laws are thereby “discouraging talented architects from competing for federal contracts, depriving government and, by inference, taxpayers of the best design expertise available,” according to the AIA’s testimony Dec. 3 before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform .

United States Army Corps of Engineers Private First Class (PFC) Eric P. Woods Soldier Family Care Center
Leo A Daly

The costs of the federal design-build contracting process has deterred many firms from participating in those contracts, AIA says. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Private First Class Eric P. Woods Soldier Family Care Center in Fort Carson, CO, is a government design-build project completed by architecture firm Leo A Daly.

The organization's representative urged Congress to pass a bill meant to streamline the process.

Testifying for Reform

Charles Dalluge, executive vice president of Omaha, NE-based architecture firm Leo A Daly, called on the committee to reform the process so that more design firms can bid on contracts without the fear of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

“Due to the current economic climate, design firms face the dilemma of ‘betting it all’ on a contract they may not get, or self-selecting out of the federal design-build market,” Dalluge said. It also costs taxpayers more money “when contracting officers spend increasing amounts of time reviewing a larger number of complicated design proposals,” he added.

He noted that the federal market has been a key to architecture firms’ survival during the recession, and increased competition costs have forced many firms from participating in federal contracts.

Leo A Daly

Charles Dalluge, executive vice president of Omaha, NE-based architecture firm Leo A Daly, testified before lawmakers Dec. 3.

“According to a survey published by the AIA Large Firm Roundtable in 2012, between 2007 and 2011 architecture firms in teams that competed for public- and private-sector design-build projects spent a median of $260,000, by making detailed plans, models and other materials,” Dalluge said.

Moreover, in recent years, federal agencies have forced larger numbers of teams to compete against one another, reducing the chances that any one team can win, according to the testimony.

Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act

Dalluge specifically called on Congress to pass “The Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013” (H.R. 2750), which was introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) in July.

Sam Graves

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced “The Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013” in July. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“H.R. 2750 requires contracting officers to provide a written justification to the head of an agency for requiring more than five finalists in the second stage of a design-build solicitation and agency approval of such justification,” Dalluge said.

The legislation “will provide more certainty and opportunities for design firms of all sizes who wish to enter the federal marketplace,” he said.

In addition, the act will also limit federal agencies’ burdens in reviewing a large number of proposals.

Design-build reform has been a major legislative priority for the AIA.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architecture; Building design; Designers; Laws and litigation

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