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Former DBIA Chair John Young Remembers

In 2010, John Young became the 17th Chairman of the Design-Build Institute of America’s (DBIA) Board of Directors. He brought vast experience to DBIA from his career serving in executive roles at various water companies and associations, including American Water Works Company, American Water Works Service Company, American Water Works Association and the Water Reuse Foundation. John received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Duke University, and a Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of North Carolina. He recently sat for an interview about his time as chairman of DBIA.

When you were Chairman, what were the organization’s challenges?

John Young: When I was Board Chair in 2010, DBIA was beginning a needed organizational and strategic transition. Lee Evey, who was the long-time leader of DBIA and a recognized design-build expert, had retired and Lisa Washington was beginning her role as the new Executive Director. Lisa brought different skills to this leadership role and an enthusiasm and commitment to grow DBIA. For effective growth to occur, both cultural and strategic changes within the organization were required. The same elements that produce a successful design-build project – integrity, trust, creativity, honest communication and respect – were needed to create a new, effective management team at DBIA. We also needed to expand our relationship with the DBIA Regions/Chapters, better define the role of the DBIA Board and management team and increase support for DBIA members, especially owners.
 
When I first began, we developed a new strategic plan for DBIA. We solicited input from all shareholders and developed clear, achievable goals. Several priorities included:
  • Recognize all integrated project delivery approaches while emphasizing that design-build remains the original and optimal project delivery method.
  • Develop documents that properly define “design-build done right” and the components of a design-build project.
  • Develop the educational resources, expertise and other tools needed to be the “go-to” organization addressing project delivery.
  • Develop the relationships and synergies with our “national-regional-chapter” structure.
  • Increase focus on the owner’s needs, challenges and education associated with design-build.

Were there any particular challenges/priorities from the water sector perspective?

John Young: I find the water/wastewater sector to be generally conservative and resistant to significant change. This culture results from their obligation to meet regulatory compliances and protect public health while having a high degree of reliable operation. However, the sector had significant capital expenditure requirements ($1B over the next 20 years) associated with deteriorating infrastructure and increased regulation. These needs required better asset management and a more cost-effective project delivery approach.

The initial challenge was educating the industry decision-makers on the value of design-build – including reduced costs, more aggressive schedule and improved quality and innovation. The use of design-build would allow them to achieve more of our nation’s capital needs with fewer resources. We also needed to convince the industry that owners can use design-build and still maintain project scope control and quality related to construction, operability and maintainability while achieving value associated with innovation and creativity.

Once the education process was successful, procurement rules would have to be changed for many utilities since most operate as public agencies. In this case, DBIA needed to help with legislative changes and assist in the political process. During my year as chairman, nearly 60% of our endorsed bills were enacted, making it one of the most successful legislative years DBIA has ever had.
 
What were DBIA’s successes during your tenure?
 
John Young: We were successful in the DBIA management team transition. Lisa was committed to implementing the strategic plan and making the organizational changes necessary to accomplish this goal.

We also opened the lines of communication with the Regions/Chapters to try to align all entities with a common strategic approach. This led to necessary structural, business-planning and funding allocation changes to help with the sustainability of some Regions.

In order to better engage and recognize DBIA members, we created two levels of certification – Design-Build Professional™ (DBIA™) and Associate Design-Build Professional ™ (Assoc. DBIA™). These certification programs continue to grow today and we’re even beginning to see RFQs mention a preference for DBIA-certified team members.

And, of course, we updated the contract documents and began producing best practices documents and more case studies. I was also proud to see record attendance at conferences and growth in membership.

What do you see as DBIA’s strengths over the years?

John Young: DBIA’s educational programs and conferences continue to serve as the best source of information for owners and design/construction professionals on integrated project delivery, particularly on the value of “design-build done right.” Without these programs, there would be far fewer people following design-build best practices and achieving high-quality projects. Furthermore, design-build wouldn’t be expanding in the public sector if it weren’t for the legislative support DBIA’s advocacy team provides to legislatures all across the country and increasingly in the federal government.

Of course, both of those strengths are the product of hard work and dedication by the DBIA management team, the staff and volunteer supporters. Without them, DBIA would not be the successful, growing organization it is today.

 

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