Governor signs bill to create school design-build pilot program after industry-requested amendments introduced

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englewood high school rendering
Renderings for a new Englewood High School

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation (HB5593) to establish a pilot program for school districts to use the design-build construction delivery method.

The method allows architects, engineers and construction contractors to pick their partners and be hired as a team, expediting project completion by allowing early phases of construction to begin as the building design is still being developed.

The pilot program follows intervention from construction organizations including the Illinois Mechanical and Specialty Contractors Association (IMSCA), which argued that the legislation in its original form should be defeated, unless it was modified to be a restricted pilot program.

This legislation permits up to five design-build demonstration projects in Illinois. Each must be shown to be in a school district’s best interest as determined by the State Board of Education, a news release says.

“The State has proven the benefit of using the design-build method on vertical infrastructure projects, and by piloting this valuable delivery method tool in the K-12 system, it will help to explore ways to increase efficiency and speed in school construction projects,” Rauner said in a statement.

Before a school district can issue a request for proposals, its school board would contract with a licensed professional to serve as the bridging firm. The bridging firm helps to develop the project scope and performance criteria. Once the school district develops a vision for what they would like to construct, the entity would engage in a two-phase selection process. Phase 1 focuses on the qualifications elements of the design-build team, and Phase 2 focuses on a technical and cost evaluation.

An added layer of transparency and accountability is included in this legislation, which requires the superintendent of a school, the State Board of Education and the design-build entity to annually submit reports to the General Assembly. The report must include comparative data on a given design-build project relative to if the project was undertaken using the traditional design-bid-build construction delivery method. This oversight will help K-12 schools pilot this method and learn when and how to maximize the benefits of using design-build.

“As a state, we are always looking for better tools to enable Illinois public entities to construct and renovate buildings more effectively and cost-efficiently,” said state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City. “Design-build has proven in national studies to deliver the lowest cost, fastest schedule and highest quality. As Representative, I will look to work with local officials to implement this important cost savings tool.”

In its statement relating to the original draft legislation, the IMSCA wrote: “HB 5593 would expand the use of the design build delivery model to local school districts. There are currently four design build laws in statute that include: the Capital Development Board, Public Building Commission, Chicago Park District and Park Districts. The Capital Development Board law was approved as part of a broad industry coalition and served as the template for the remaining statutes.

“Design Build is much different than the traditional design-bid-build model. In order for the design build model to be a successful delivery method for construction projects, an experienced owner with thorough knowledge of the construction process is required. For this reason, expanding the use of the design build model to local school districts causes concern to the Illinois construction industry,” the IMSCA statement said.

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