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November 21, 2019

UW building takes fast track with integrated design-build

  • The team-oriented delivery method is estimated to have cut nearly a year off the schedule of the Population Health building.
    Lease Crutcher Lewis


    The Hans Rosling Center for Population Health is a 300,000-square-foot research, teaching and innovation space currently under construction on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.

    The building, funded by a sizable grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the state Legislature, will create space for interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation to better understand and improve health across the globe.

    It is the first and largest integrated design-build project the UW has executed and stands as an example for what design-build projects could look like in the future.

    The goal is to get the right expertise involved and aligned with the project early, so they can help make decisions in the best interest of the overall project rather than based only on their own discipline or firm.

    The result is a building that is better designed to fit the needs of the end users, can be completed on a shorter schedule, makes the most of the allotted budget, and is designed and built with an integrated and high-functioning team.

    Reorienting the team

    Rendering courtesy of the Miller Hull Partnership [enlarge]
    The 300,000-square-foot Population Health building is UW’s first integrated design-build project. It’s expected to open next summer.

    Over the past two years, the design-build team of the Miller Hull Partnership, Lease Crutcher Lewis and the University of Washington have created a cohesive team that functions as a single entity.

    Team members from all the key project partners are sitting together in the jobsite office — we see and hear each other’s challenges and in many cases, we work together in our problem-solving efforts. It takes a deep level of trust to know that we are all working towards the same goal. Many of the members of the project team had never worked in a deeply integrated format, so breaking the barriers of the traditional owner, architect and contractor relationship took intentional actions and practice.

    At the onset, the design-build team created a project charter to set expectations and project goals. When selecting additional design and trade partners, a key selection criterion was their ability to embrace a team approach and to integrate their specialty into the development of the project.

    The challenge was aligning an entire project team around a single set of goals, breaking down the usual barriers and pushing each discipline to produce work as a team. Our focus had to be team culture, not just the standard design-build methods.

    Team mentality

    Co-location: We created a co-location approach for all key project stakeholders, grouping the team based on project element and building system so everyone had access to the right expertise and could problem-solve in real time. It changed each work group from being discipline-centric to project-centric. This sounds simple but creating work groups based on project elements rather than discipline or firm was a key factor in eliminating wasted time, developing relationships and breaking the boundaries of standard delivery methods.

    Project definition: Before the start of design, Lewis, Miller Hull, the UW and other key project team members aligned the program, scope and schedule with the budget to gain consensus across the team, to set expectations and to decide how to implement the funding in the most impactful way, before starting design. This process ensured each discipline had a clear understanding of project goals from the start.

    Target value delivery: Once the definition phase sorted out the program and budget allocation, the project team was empowered to design to the target budgets of each building component and system, making the scope the variable rather than the budget. Together, we created a building that delivers the best design and construction within the UW budget.

    Risk-reward partnerships and shared contingency: To further cement a team mentality into the culture, we asked many of the critical project partners to join us in putting our markup at risk for the opportunity to earn a proportionate share of an incentive. The idea is that the team is collectively incentivized to add value, because we all will benefit from the buy-in. Putting your firm’s markup at risk and relying on partners from other disciplines or trades was a big factor in building trust in the rest of the team.

    Similarly, the contingency was consolidated in a single place, so the team could work together to identify and mitigate risks together. Thus far, the team has successfully mitigated 74 percent of the projects’ potential risks, which saved the UW $14.7 million that could be reinvested into the building or other project priorities.

    The benefits

    The Hans Rosling Center will be complete next summer, with just three years from site selection to occupancy. We estimate that we cut nearly a year out of the project schedule and avoided nearly $11.5 million in escalation and project costs.

    Those savings are a direct result of transparency, team buy-in and collaboration that set the team up to perform design and construction on the right trajectory. When complete, the UW will get a building that was delivered with a shorter schedule, made more efficient use of the budget and meets higher standards of design.

    While design progression and cost and schedule savings have been instrumental for the project team, the element that really sets the Hans Rosling Center apart for the team has been fulfillment.

    Each member of the design-build team has built meaningful relationships with their counterparts in other disciplines and now have a better understanding of the industry overall. They make decisions looking at the entire project, not just their own scope and go home each night feeling empowered and challenged. That is what inspires our teams to design and build better facilities and ultimately, it’s what progresses the industry.

    Brian Aske is the education market director at Lease Crutcher Lewis and president of the Design-Build Institute of America Northwest region.

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