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Guidebook on Progressive Design-Build for Transportation Projects: Project Selection through Contract Execution


Progressive Design-Build (PDB) is an evolution of design-build (DB) and construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC). It transfers design/construction responsibilities to a design-build team in the preliminary planning phase while utilizing CM/GC processes (e.g., a pure qualifications-based selection for pre-construction services, an Independent Cost Estimator to manage the open-book pricing) to ensure agencies receive fair market value with a negotiated GMP. PDB has successfully used in water/wastewater, airport, and transit sectors.

The documented benefits of using PDB include greater agency control of scope, cost, and schedule; quicker and cheaper procurement; accelerated schedule; flexibility of scope; innovative project specific solutions; increased life-cycle value for money; and greater contractor collaboration.

Although state department of transportations (DOTs) are increasingly using alternative contracting methods (ACMs) to deliver their highway projects, only few DOTs has implemented PDB. For example, Maryland DOT has successfully used PDB for their I-270 project. Missouri, Florida, and Utah DOTs also are interested in PDB to maximize the dual benefits of DB and CM/GC delivery methods. However, little PDB guidance is available, if any, for state DOTs to implement their highway projects. Based on the success of using PDB in water/wastewater, airport, and transit sectors, there is a need to investigate how PDB can be used for highways. Some typical research questions are:


What is the current state-of-practice process of PDB? How could the current state-of-practice and lessons learn of PDB from other sectors’ projects apply to highway projects?


What are the benefits and challenges of PDB beyond traditional DB, specific to highway?


What are the critical skill sets, knowledge, resources, legislation, etc. that agencies need prior to executing PDB projects?


How do traditional agency functions and responsibilities change under PDB? How do these changes impact staff requirements and roles?


How does an agency representative become a champion for PDB? What type of trainings are needed to promote PDB?


What is the optimal selection criteria for PDB?


The main objective of the proposed research is to develop guidelines to assist state DOTs in effectively and efficiently use of PDB for highway projects. Proposed tasks to accomplish this objective are as follows:

Task 1:

Literature search to review past studies on PDB’s use in transportation agencies and other sectors.

Task 2:

Conduct nationwide survey questionnaires of transportation agencies along with selective water/wastewater, airport, and transit sectors to understand the effective practices in use of PDB.

Task 3:

Perform structured interviews and case studies to investigate success factors, effective procedures and processes, benefits and challenges, and strategies to overcome such challenges of using PDB in highway projects.

Task 4:

Develop a framework for implementing PDB for highways.

Task 5:

Prepare a research work plan that describes the details of the research methodology and approach to identifying and verifying effective practices and developing conclusions.

Task 6:

Execute the research work plan and prepare an interim research report that articulates data collection and analysis as well as emerging conclusions, effective practices, lessons learned, and a proposed outline for the guidebook.

Task 7:

Publish the final guidebook and a final research report that details the full results of the research


Maryland SHA has begun use of PDB on I-270, contracting pre-construction services with the design-build firm in June of 2017 and Utah DOT is currently, as of summer 2018, preparing for a PDB pilot project. With the apparent success thus far on I-270, it is likely that many more agencies will be soon desiring to begin executing PDB projects of their own. This proposed research is important to disseminate PDB lessons learned and effective practices to these agencies.

As PDB is in its infancy in the transportation sector, all eyes are on the initial executed projects. Any ineffective or inadequate execution of PDB will not only be a failure on the project level, but may have national ramifications in the form of agencies hesitation to execute its use. Thus there is an urgency to the execution of this project. The final deliverables of this proposed research will potentially be a guidebook to help agencies to enable legislation and establish effective and efficient PDB processes.

Sponsoring Committee:AFH15, Project Delivery Methods
Research Period:24 - 36 months
RNS Developer:Douglas Alleman, University of Colorado, and Dan Tran, University of Kansas
Date Posted:11/06/2018
Date Modified:12/31/2018
Index Terms:Design build, Project delivery, Construction management, Contract administration,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Administration and Management
Transportation (General)

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