Project Delivery Methods
Photo courtesy of GeoSurfaces

Project Delivery Methods: Know Your Options

By Mary Helen Sprecher

Sports field owners who are moving toward the construction (or reconstruction, or even improvement) of a field already know the process is complex. In our last article, we presented a roadmap through the request for proposal (RFP) process (see March 2024 SportsField Management). After the RFPs have been collected and the owner is trying to parse through them, it is necessary to understand that perhaps not all proposals offer the same thing when it comes to project delivery methods. A quick rundown of the methods and what they entail is as follows:

Design/bid/build is the most popular method, and is often mandated in public projects. With this method, a design firm designs the project – including drawings, specs and construction documents – then the project is put out to bid. Generally, the contractor submitting the lowest bid that meets all the requirements is chosen.

Design/build combines architectural and engineering design services with construction; the owner contracts with one company that is responsible for both.

Negotiated contract or agreement is a contract awarded based on a direct agreement with a contractor, without going through a competitive bidding process. For smaller projects, such as renovations or resurfacing of a single field, this may be the most efficient method.

For very large construction projects, owners may want to engage a construction management firm to handle design and construction.

Cooperative purchasing contracts (CPC) – an arrangement through which governmental entities, schools, universities and/or religious organizations purchase materials and/or construction services they desire from a pre-qualified list of manufacturers and builders – is also gaining popularity. In a CPC, product and service offerings are pre-bid and vetted by a cooperative purchasing agency to ensure competitive price and quality. Cooperative purchasing agencies publish “not-to-exceed” price lists by which customers can then negotiate an agreed-upon price with their chosen product manufacturer or builder.

Various builders have preferences regarding project delivery methods, and for various reasons. Todd Penley of GeoSurfaces, for example, explained the various scenarios that make both design/build and design/bid/build the most popular methods on the market when it comes to athletic fields.

“Design/build is a project delivery method that has been around for hundreds of years but was often referred to as integrated project delivery,” he said. “It wasn’t until 1993 that it officially became known as design/build. In this method, there is only one contract. The person in need of a building, also known as a project owner, hires one person or company to both design and construct the building. This person, known as the design/builder, can hire design consultants and subcontractors as they see fit, but those employees would answer directly to the design/builder, not the project owner.”

Penley quoted attorney Brian Perlberg of ConsensusDocs, as saying, “Perhaps the biggest advantage of design/build is that it affords for earlier involvement of the build teams – namely the lead builder and its specialty contractors – to provide their expertise in regard to more efficient materials selection, constructability and schedule.”

The opinion of the attorney is that highly specialized contractors in the sports surfacing market have far more valuable experience and expertise than most firms in the architectural and engineering (A&E) community. There is also “extensive consolidation between the elite manufacturers and the elite contractors, yielding an opportunity for project owners to select a construction firm that brings a comprehensive body of knowledge, including product technologies and construction means and methods.”

Design/bid/build, by contrast, is the most often used, which is why, according to Penley, “It’s often referred to as the traditional project delivery method. That’s because of its time-tested process that has been used almost as long as construction has been an industry.”

Plus, he noted, “This technique is simple enough. The person who needs a building constructed, or the project owner, hires a designer to draw up the schematics and plans for the building. The designer can then hire consultants as needed, who report directly to the designer. Once the building is drawn up, the designer is done with the project outside of consultation and tweaks as needed.

“With plans in hand, the project owner gets construction bids from various firms to construct the building,” he added. “The project owner picks the bid they like best and hires the contractor. As with the designer, the contractor can hire subcontractors as needed who would report directly to them, not the project owner. Then the building is constructed based on the schematics and documents that the designer made. A variation of this system includes a qualified project manager, who serves as a proxy for the project owner.”

Project Delivery Methods
Photo courtesy of SCG Fields, LLC

Design/build vs. design/bid/build

“In a traditional design/bid/build model, the owner bears significant risk and may lose money if, for example, an approved design has to be changed once construction has begun,” said Penley. “The design/build model takes much of the risk off a project owner and puts it on the design/build team.”

Paul Arcella of CSR Heavy offered additional advice for field owners (or those planning to have a field built).

“Here in our area (south Florida), especially when it comes to athletic fields, tracks and the like, we have been pleading with cities, municipalities and owners to pre-qualify the bidding contractors before they are allowed to bid,” said Arcella. “At the very least, entities should be asking for resumes of completed projects and proof of several years of experience with athletic construction.”

According to Arcella, some entities even require that the main contractor or subcontractor performing the work must hold American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) certifications.

“Some agencies and owners in our area have listened, which has resulted in getting competent contractors to competitively bid,” he said. “The biggest struggle we face is competing on hard bid/RFPs with unqualified contractors. When a project that requires technical accuracy like a track, field or court is awarded to an unqualified general contractor, construction manager or subcontractor, it most often ends with the end user being unhappy.

“Because of the technical accuracy that most athletic projects require and depending on level of play that will use the fields (such as rec programs, travel sport programs, high schools, college etc.), we have also suggested these types of RFPs use the design/build method,” Arcella added. “Select a competent contractor with design/build experience from an initial submission process. Short-list the most competent, and then work with the selected firm to design and build what the particular agency wants. This process helps achieve the best possible, technically accurate, athletic facility built for the best possible price and within the set budget.”

Mary Helen Sprecher wrote this article on behalf of the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA). For more information, visit ASBA publishes Sports Fields: Construction and Maintenance Manual, which walks readers through the decision-making process that should precede deciding upon a field surface, as well as its location. It is available in both hard copy and electronic form from the ASBA website.