Could You Pass a Quiz on Design-Build Terms?


Last week I reviewed a presentation featuring design-build concepts and methodology. Actually, I had to read it twice, because most of the terms in the document are no longer being used – and I was stymied as to how to approach the author with constructive feedback. While startling coming from a government official, it is not an unfamiliar situation. I hear similar outdated language and address questions about the terms used for design-build delivery methods at WDBC’s education sessions all the time.  

Perhaps one of the most important goals of WDBC’s education program is to clarify the differences in the terms used in design-build delivery and how they are applied. Within the education sessions, a review and discussion of the terms used in design-build procurement and contracts occurs because we know that various industry practitioners also use similar terms in a different context. However, consistent messaging in the water sector is critical in approaches to project procurement, contracting, management, and delivery. It’s important for owners to use terms that are consistent within the industry. At the same time, it’s important for design-builders to use the same consistent terminology. And it is particularly important that all parties are clear in the terminology regarding the project’s priorities and drivers in preparing for procurement and contracting.

So when I was presented with a document written by someone at a federal agency in the water/wastewater sector that used the term “alternative delivery” throughout the whole paper, I was compelled to bring this common misperception to light. WDBC’s industry research documents that the use of design-build delivery methods – progressive, fixed-price, and construction management at-risk (CMAR) are no longer an “alternative” to  design-bid-build. This position is further supported by the number of states over the past five years who have specifically changed their regulations enabling and advocating for the use of design-build delivery methods. And because design-build delivery methods foster and integrate a collaborative relationship among the entities, the term “collaborative” delivery has also evolved to encompass all of the design-build delivery methods.

So now that I’ve introduced this discussion, do you know the differences and understand these most commonly used terms in design-build procurement and contracting?

  • What is the difference between a fixed-price and lump-sum contract?
  • What does GMP mean and how is it applied? How is it different from a targeted price?
  • What are the differences between pricing and cost of work?
  • What are the differences between a performance-based and a prescriptive-based contract?
  • How is a CMAR firm different from a GC or GM?

We’ll answer these questions and more in our weekly blogs – and of course they are always answered in a WDBC education program. Do you have more questions you’d like answered? Send them to us!


About Linda Hanifin Bonner, Ph.D, Executive Operations Manager of Water Design-Build Council

With nearly 30 years of experience in the water/wastewater industry, Linda Hanifin Bonner provides a unique blend of organization, governance, and financial management experience to the Water Design-Build Council. Dr. Hanifin Bonner’s professional career has been dedicated to developing pragmatic and strategic oriented approaches through education to the factors influencing water and wastewater industry projects. Originally an environmental planner for Montgomery County, MD, her work over the years has been supporting federal, state, and local government agencies, the engineering community, and private industry.
Topics: Design-Build, Education, WDBC Admin.

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