Ron Coker

Missouri Public Agencies Now Have Option for a Faster, Less Expensive, Quality Construction Process

Design-Build Bill Becomes Law in Missouri


For two decades, countless lawmakers, municipal and county officials, and engineering and construction professionals have worked behind the scenes to enact legislation that would allow local Missouri public agencies to use the design-build construction process for everything from roads and bridges to water and wastewater infrastructure. This week, the long-awaited Missouri House Bill 2376 goes into effect authorizing any local political subdivision, such as a municipality or school district, to procure projects through a single contract with a design-build contractor.


Design-build is a best value-based construction method known to be a less expensive and much faster, lower risk to clients with a higher value than typical construction delivery methods, because it uses a single entity to provide both the design and construction of a project. Missouri will now join 24 other states in the country where design-build is permitted.


“This is a big win for Missouri taxpayers,” says Bill Quatman, who chairs the board for the Design Build Institute of America (DBIA)and is the general legal counsel for Burns & McDonnell. Quatman testified in support of this legislation and helped draft several iterations of the bill over the last decade. “Study after study shows that owners like single-point accountability through design-build, where one entity accepts responsibility for both design and construction risk.”


“Until now, many public agencies in Missouri were forced to go simply with the lowest bidder on construction projects, regardless of qualifications. That’s like picking a doctor based only on the cost of the office visit. In our industry, we find that can be a risky proposition that could result in anything from construction related claims to unexpected costs and change orders that snowball during the project.”


The bill targets political subdivisions with the power to tax, such as cities, townships, municipalities, counties, water districts, and school districts.


“This bill is critical in helping smaller townships and communities maintain and rebuild their infrastructure,” says Ron Coker, senior vice president of the Water Group at Burns & McDonnell, who says the bill enables small communities to utilize a proven project delivery method that reduces risk, reduces construction time and eases the burden on already overloaded city staff.  


“We work with communities every day who are looking for the most cost-effective and innovative ways to have those essential needs we all take for granted, like clean drinking water and efficient wastewater and stormwater systems. This new law provides Missouri public agencies with the power to choose the best partner and construction method to build the projects and the infrastructure that will benefit us all for decades to come.”


A study by the Construction Industry Institute in conjunction with Penn State University found that design-build is the most economical and efficient project delivery system. The study claimed design-build costs at least 4.5 percent less than traditional methods with a delivery speed at least 23 percent faster, and exceeds project delivery expectations at all levels.


“From airport runways to power plants, design-build is the key ingredient to delivering what every client expects from a project – that it’s on time and on budget,” says Randy Griffin, president, Construction Design-Build Group, Burns & McDonnell.


Griffin says design-build is the gold standard for construction projects at Burns & McDonnell, which produced nearly $1.5 billion in total design-build revenue in 2015. The firm is now listed at No. 11 in the prestigious Engineering News-Record Top 100 Design-Build rankings. 


“From a microfiltration water treatment plant in Westminster, Colorado to a globally-recognized aquifer storage and recovery projectfor Wichita, Kan., we have done some incredibly advanced design-build projects with municipalities and state agencies throughout the country.”


The new law expands the ability to utilize design-build beyond large cities and counties, to embrace the hundreds of political subdivisions that before now lacked legislative authority to use this innovative and cost-saving process.