NYC Public Works Investment Act Gives Green Light to Design-Build Contracts

New York City recently approved the design-build method of project delivery for New York City public construction projects. This is good news for contractors and New Yorkers alike, as there’s been a recent need to streamline infrastructure projects within the city limits. Let’s take a look at what the design-build method is, and how the NYC Public Works Investment Act will change how public works projects are delivered.

What is the design-build method?

Under traditional project delivery methods, the property owner or contracting agency will have to execute two separate contracts; one with the designer and one with the contractor. This can lead to tension, miscommunication, and conflict between the two teams. Under the design-build (DB) method, there’s only one contract with the designer and the contractor working as one team from the outset of the project. This helps foster coordination and communication well before the shovel hits the dirt.

According to a recent study of project delivery performance, the design-build method has steadily outperformed both the design-bid-build and construction manager at risk methods. Design-build projects have been delivered faster and are more reliable to keep costs down, and schedules on time.

So why hasn’t this project delivery method hit New York City sooner?

Design-build contracts in New York State

The largest hurdle when it comes to design-build contracts in NY is that, under the previous laws, a design-build contract would basically violate the licensing requirements for design professionals under the state Department of Education laws. However, the design-build method has been recently gaining traction within the state. Design-build contracting was used for the work on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (the old Tappan Zee Bridge), the Kosciuszko Bridge project, and the renovation of the Javits Center.

New York City Public Works Investment Act

Cue the NYC Public Works Investment Act! This was actually passed by the New York State Legislature mid-2019 but was only recently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Under the new act, this will change to merely requiring licensed professional approval on all design documents and specs. This will allow New York City agencies to fast track projects and potentially save millions of dollars in construction costs. One way is by simply allowing city agencies to combine construction bids into just a single contract. In addition to allowing design-build contracts, there is also a renewed focus on awarding these contracts to minority and women-owned businesses.

These provisions will go into effect immediately, but will expire in three years (2023). The city will require yearly evaluations on the effect of design-projects on the city. Any agency who used the design-build method must submit annual reports starting in June of 2020. These reports will need to provide information concerning the project as a whole, the bidding procedures, budget, schedule, and more.

This could be a sign of things to come. If the design-build method is effectively implemented on public works projects in the city of New York, this trend may spread to the rest of the Empire State. We’ll keep you updated on any further developments.