What’s so Progressive about Progressive Design-Build?

By Cody Thomas, Esq., Manager and Counsel, AIA Contract Documents

May 20, 2022

In the world of construction project delivery methods, the use of Progressive Design-Build (PDB) has been gaining popularity over the past several years. Despite this popularity, the question of how to define PDB has remained unclear.

At its core, PDB is a delivery method that allows for collaborative development project criteria that is a qualifications-based procurement process versus one based primarily on cost. The uncertainty in defining PDB stems from the different ways PDB can be implemented. However, each of these variations are based on the same idea, and thus fall under the PDB umbrella. This same idea is also the key distinguishing factor between PDB and Traditional Design-Build (TDB). PDB also attempts to address other drawbacks one can confront in TDB delivery systems.

Before comparing PDB to TDB, a brief overview of TDB will be helpful. TDB remains one of the most used project delivery systems and uses a best value approach to contract procurement. Typically, in TDB, the owner contracts with a single design-build contractor to provide the design and construction for the project. The design-build contractor is often selected through a two-step process. In a two-step process, owners first identify a short list of design-builders based on responses to a Request for Qualifications issued by the owner. The selected design-builders are then issued a Request for Proposal, which includes a baseline design and technical specifications. The baseline design is prepared by a consultant hired by the owner. Based on the baseline design, the design-builders prepare and submit a detailed technical proposal with a design containing enough detail to define both scope and price.

On the other hand, PDB is focused on a qualifications-based procurement process. This approach allows the owner to select the design-build contractor prior to developing a baseline design, saving time and money. In a PDB project, the owner issues a Request for Qualifications, and selects the design-build contractor based on the contractor’s qualifications and past performance. The design-build contractor and owner then collaborate to develop the project’s design and budget. This collaboration allows the owner to have greater control and involvement throughout development of the design and budget. As far as budget is concerned, unlike in a TDB project, the final GMP is typically not reached until the design is nearing completion. Rather, as the design progresses, the design-build contractor provides preliminary guaranteed maximum price at various milestones throughout the project until the final GMP is established.

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.