“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”

Those are the words of President Calvin Coolidge, but my experience working to pass design-build legislation in the state of Missouri certainly proved them true.

On August 29, 2016, Missouri HB 2376  passed with nearly unanimous support. This landmark legislation paved the way for Missouri cities, large and small, to take advantage of the benefits of design-build. But it was a long time coming.

I personally spent 12 years working with the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and Missouri legislators to pass a design-build law, but the movement was underway long before I was involved.

To celebrate the culmination of this process and, more importantly, Missouri’s first year of design-build, I’d like to take a look back at the long road we took to get here, the many opportunities design-build offers for Missouri and some of its early successes.

A Long and Winding Road

The saga began in 1995, when the Missouri State Division of Design and Construction short-listed five design-build teams for a $48 million, 1,200-bed prison in Cameron, Missouri. After the state awarded the contract to the most qualified contractor, the lowest bidder sued for an injunction.

The suit was dismissed voluntarily, and the prison was built, but to avoid such challenges in the future, the division introduced a bill in 1997 to permit use of design-build construction on all state projects. During the next four years, the original bill and its many successors failed to pass.

In June 2008, the division had its first breakthrough. Using a minor 2007 amendment to the state’s Buildings and Lands Statutes (RSMO § 8.250.3), administrative regulations permitting the use of alternative project delivery methods were adopted. As a result, the division could use design-build when awarding contracts for projects in excess of $100,000.

The Home Stretch

Also in 2008, I drafted a bill that would have allowed school districts to use design-build. Though it was ultimately defeated, it became the foundation for HB 2376.

Throughout the next eight years, interest in design-build continued to increase. As our focus expanded to include a variety of political subdivisions — including municipalities, counties and transit authorities, as well as road, water and school districts — I worked with the DBIA and Missouri legislators to develop language that was agreeable to all parties.

Finally, after years of testimony and negotiations, our efforts were rewarded with passage of HB 2376 in August 2016. Under the new law, all political subdivisions can use design-build for civil works, such as roads, bridges, utilities and water/wastewater projects. Non-civil works, including buildings and site improvements, in excess of $7 million also are eligible.

Looking to the Future

Prior to the passage of HB 2376, only large Missouri cities and counties could use design-build. Today, communities and agencies across the state are choosing this approach because of its advantages over design-bid-build.

The biggest benefit of design-build is having a single point of accountability. When a design-build team owns the project, there isn’t any confusion about who is responsible for solving problems. Design-build also provides cost certainty by delivering more reliable cost estimates earlier in the process, meaning fewer change orders are required later. Finally, design-build projects can be completed faster because the early stages of construction, such as site preparation, can begin before the design is completed.

The town of Harrisonville, Missouri, was the first to take advantage of the new law when it used a design-build methodology to address a wastewater tank emergency in 2016. More recently, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, used design-build for water infrastructure, specifically to repair an emergency sewer failure in less than four months, saving $630,000 compared to a traditional design-bid-build model.


Looking for efficiency in project delivery? Design-build gets the job done.

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Bill Quatman, FAIA, Esq., is general counsel and senior vice president at Burns & McDonnell, where he oversees all corporate legal matters. He is a former chairman of the Design-Build Institute of America and has more than 35 years of experience in the AEC industry.