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Former DBIA Chair Don Warren Remembers

In 1998, Don Warren, President & CEO of Suitt Construction Company, took over as the fifth Chairman of DBIA. At that time, design-build was only permitted in a handful of states, but DBIA had just come off a major victory at the federal level: amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation to allow design-build projects to receive federal funding. While DBIA continued our efforts to authorize design-build in every state, Don Warren pushed the organization to expand involvement from architects, engineers, trade contractors and private sector owners. He also wanted to refine the resources DBIA offered to ensure they were up to date and most effective. We sat down with him recently to discuss his successful tenure as Chairman.

Warren’s first priority when he took over was updating the Design-Build Best Practices document that had first been completed in 1996. He stressed the importance of this document in 1998 because design-build was beginning to spread more quickly. If owners, contractors, architects and engineers were unaware of approved best practices, design-build projects could be executed poorly, thus hindering its proliferation.

“It wasn’t just about updating the document,” Warren stressed, “it was also about making sure we had input from architects, engineers and trade contractors.” Since the founders of DBIA were all contractors, Warren raised concerns that people might view DBIA as an organization focused mainly on supporting contractors, which was not the case.

“In 1998, design-build represented only about 20 percent of the non-residential construction market, so many architects, engineers and trade contractors were unfamiliar with the process. Getting AIA [the American Institute of Architects] and other industry groups to participate in the revision of the Design-Build Best Practices document was one of our biggest successes.”

Warren worked to further expand the reach of DBIA by securing representation from the architecture, engineering and trade contractor communities to the board and relevant DBIA committees, so we could continue to hear from all important members of the design-build community. “I think the wording we used was ‘everybody inside the DBIA tent,’” he told us.

Warren also brought in some voices from the private sector. “I came out of a background that focused on private owners, so we brought them in and had a private owners committee that included GE, Frito Lay, FMC and a few others,” said Warren. The private sector had more experience with design-build at the time and provided valuable input and advice.

Warren attributed DBIA’s success to, “the leadership of committees and the board being some of the top executives for the best design-builders in the country. We never believed we could find the time to do it, but when we did, we all got energized and we worked together – even though some of us were competitors.”

Warren left Suitt Construction after 26 years and started his own company in 2006, which merged with Moss & Associates headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in 2010. With offices in North and South Carolina, Don is proud to be using the design-build delivery process to build industrial and manufacturing projects that are returning to the U.S. from abroad and looks forward to the future success of DBIA.
Note: DBIA's 2013 Design-Build Best Practices is open for comments.


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