Enhancing Organizational Transformation for Design-Build Infrastructure Projects: Design Liability, Construction Quality Assurance, and New Engineering Leadership Requirements

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Lee, Jung Hyun
Ashuri, Baabak
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Major transportation infrastructure projects have used alternative project delivery, such as design-build (DB), to streamline and expedite project delivery, transferring many roles and responsibilities from state departments of transportation (DOTs) to private actors. One challenge that state DOTs face in their major DB projects is ensuring that the DB team upholds the highest standards of design and construction quality in the integrated design and construction environment. The overarching objectives of this study are to support decision-makers in streamlining project delivery by identifying challenges related to understanding gaps between public owners' expectations and the industry's perception and suggesting recommendations to mitigate the gaps. Most specifically, this study addresses issues found in DB transportation infrastructure projects and recommends innovative solutions to overcome those issues in the following areas: (1) design liability, (2) construction quality assurance, and (3) a new engineering leadership requirement on the DB team. This study utilizes a mixed-method research methodology, combining quantitative and qualitative techniques to identify key areas of variances in the integrated DB infrastructure projects. The data in this study come from a survey and semi-structured interviews. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the research, it is necessary to capture several viewpoints from a wide range of subject-matter experts (SMEs) from multiple domains, including design consultants, highway contractors, public owners, owner representatives, insurance and legal advisors, and construction engineering and inspection (CEI) specialists. The results show that SMEs had considerably different perceptions regarding the frequency and severity of design claim sources in the DB environment. Inconsistencies between CEI perceptions and DOT requirements for quality assurance roles and responsibilities are identified. The results also highlight that a new engineering leadership requirement on the DB team will add value to large and complex projects. This study contributes to the body of knowledge in proactive design and construction quality management by providing decision-makers insights into design liability issues and opportunities to reduce them, providing guidance on reinforcing the quality assurance program for current and future DB projects, and mitigating gaps between the DOT's expectations and the industry's perceptions. The findings of this study have important implications for future practice and offer constructive guidance on streamlining project delivery in the DB transportation infrastructure market.
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