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Design-Build Threatened in New York

by Richard Thomas  |  April 7, 2014
  
In 2011, after New York passed historic legislation authorizing the use of design-build, an optimistic mood spread throughout the Empire State’s building and design industry. Following years of advocacy by DBIA, lawmakers in Albany worked together to pass this much needed construction reform in order to efficiently deliver projects critical to New York taxpayers; projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge. 
 
Three years later, design-build has lived up to its promise. Twelve design-build projects have been completed or are underway in New York, and the Tappan Zee Bridge project is achieving success. Estimates show that that using the design-build method may save more than $500 million on the Tappan Zee project alone and it will be delivered much faster than using traditional methods. 
 
With the great success that design-build has had in New York, one would think extending the design-build authority that expires this year would be a “slam dunk.” Projects delivered faster and more cost effectively without sacrificing quality, who wouldn’t want that?
 
Well, believe it or not, design-build as we know it is fighting for survival in New York.  The 2011 law needs to be reauthorized at the end of 2014, but project labor agreement requirements were attached to the design-build provisions in the Governor’s 2014 budget creating disputes between labor unions and the construction industry. When both sides failed to reach an agreement, the design-build provisions were stripped out and the fate of design-build in New York is now in limbo. 
 
The irony here is that design-build success stories in New York could be coming to an end not because it didn’t work, but because it worked so well. Because design-build has proven that it is a valuable tool for delivering projects, it was seen as a commodity for political horse trading. In other words, some people felt they could make any amendments to it they wanted because no one would risk getting rid of it.  Unfortunately, Albany politicians miscalculated and the greatest construction reform in more than a hundred years is in jeopardy. 
 
DBIA’s team of advocacy professionals is working to make sure cooler heads will prevail in Albany. We will be working towards a legislative solution before the legislative session ends in June or take the fight to a special session this fall if need be. If you live in New York State, you can call your representative and tell them to reauthorize design-build authority. It’s not too late for lawmakers to do the right thing and reauthorize this important legislation. 


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