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On December 20, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into effect the Design-Build for Public Schools Act (P.A. 100-1159). The Act establishes a pilot program for up to five public school districts to use the design-build construction delivery method with the goal of increasing efficiency and speed in school construction projects.

The design-build construction delivery method rests in contrast to the traditional design-bid-build delivery method which typically involves a selection for the design aspects of a project followed by a competitive bidding process for the construction of the project, with the school district acting as the middleman for the design and construction teams. The design-build method involves only one competitive solicitation for a team consisting of architects, engineers, and construction contractors, allowing more input from the various team members during both the design and construction phases of a project.

Pursuant to the Act, it is the intent of the General Assembly to authorize up to five design-build projects statewide where it is shown to be in the school district’s best interest, as determined by ISBE. As drafted, a school district may only utilize the design-build method in accordance with the Act if the school district prepares a written determination detailing the advantages of the design-build procurement method, including considerations that the design-build method will offer material savings of time or cost over other methods and the suitability of design-build to the type and size of project being considered, and ISBE determines that design-build is in the school district’s best interest. We note it is unclear at this time what the submission process of written determinations to ISBE will entail and how ISBE will determine the five projects permitted to utilize the design-build method.

If a school district is permitted to utilize the design-build method for a project in accordance with the Act, the school district must satisfy a number of requirements prior to awarding a contract to a design-build entity. A school district must publish procedures for the solicitation and award of contracts pursuant to the Act. Further, notice must be published at least fourteen days before issuing the request for proposals. The request for proposals must include information enumerated in the Act and must be developed with the assistance of a licensed design professional who is an employee of the school district or contracted by the school district. The request for proposals must include scope and performance criteria with sufficient detail to reasonably apprise qualified design-build entities of the school district’s overall needs and goals for the project.

Evaluation of proposals submitted by design-build entities shall occur in two phases by a committee established in accordance with the Act. Phase I of the evaluation shall evaluate and select a short list of the design-build entities based on qualifications; however, price may not be used as a factor in the evaluation of Phase I proposals. Phase II of the evaluation shall evaluate the technical and cost proposals of the qualifying design-build entities. Evaluation shall occur pursuant to criteria established and published by the school district in the request for proposals, including the required evaluation criteria enumerated in the Act. A school district may make an award of contract to the design-build entity that is the highest overall ranked according to the evaluation criteria.

Because the Act is intended as a pilot program, the design-build entity for a school project, the regional superintendent, and ISBE must annually submit a detailed report to the General Assembly on the status of projects procured under the Act. The reports will include estimates and actual project costs, delivery schedules, and estimated cost comparisons to the traditional design-bid-build method to aid in maximizing the benefits of using the design-build method. The results of the pilot program may result in an increase of design-build school construction projects compared to the traditional method.