The largest public-works program in the history of the National Guard is racing to a finish, with 14 of 16 hurricane-recovery design-build contracts under budget and the last one scheduled for delivery by late next summer.

Buildings in the sprawling Jackson Barracks rehab also meet LEED-Silver equivalent standards.
Angelle Bergeron / ENR
Buildings in the sprawling Jackson Barracks rehab also meet LEED-Silver equivalent standards.

In fall 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged or destroyed all 189 Louisiana Army National Guard facilities. By December 2005, Congress had appropriated funds to rebuild, but with a short fuse: “We had to award contracts with in nine months,” says Lt. Col. William Aldridge, construction facilities management officer for LANG. The $467 million was equal in cost to all other Guard construction programs executed in 50 states and four territories in fiscal year 2006, combined.

Aldridge says the need for speed drove LANG’s desire to go design-build, but getting approval wasn’t easy LANG had never used design-build and was not authorized by the state to do so. The federal government has allowed design-build for many years, says Bill Pulket, the Guard’s facilities management engineer for 11 states and for the Rita/Katrina rebuild effort. But in Louisiana, the only agency with design-build authority was the Dept. of Transportation and Development. “We design and construct on state land, under state procedures. It’s beneficial to every state to have design-build ability, but whether their legislature allows them to do it is another thing,” Pulket says. He says that after Katrina, in Louisiana, “it was obvious” the tool was needed.

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  • “We had to find a way to get this delivery vehicle,” says Aldridge. The Guard, along with the Louisiana Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Design Build Institute of America, asked the state for approval. In a special legislative session in February 2006, LANG and the state’s office of facility planning and control won permission to use design-build through 2011.

    Expecting approval, LANG had already been preparing for a month, establishing an architect/engineering selection board, advertising, performing design reviews and developing bridging documents. “Contractors also knew what our ballpark estimates were,” Aldridge says. “I did not know if we were going to be successful with design-build, but we had to get designs going.”

    He says launching design on so many projects simultaneously with traditional design-bid-build would have flooded the market and spoiled chances for competitive bids. Design-build let them stagger projects so the industry could absorb the workload without driving up bids, he says.

    LANG used a 3% allocation for program management to hire Jacobs Facilities Inc., Arlington, Va., and then began hiring design-build contractors. “There was a huge response from the construction community,” Aldridge says.

    “The Guard didn’t have the in-house expertise or people to handle the speed [of] design-build, but they did a pretty good job of listening to what Jacobs had to say,” says Jeff Mobley, project executive for a $27.3-million contract held by the New Orleans division of Walton Construction Co., Kansas City. Additionally, they coordinated schedules at New Orleans’ Jackson Barracks, where several contractors had pieces of $175 million worth of work. “It was different...but it let us do what we know how to do so we could give the government a good product,” Mobley says.

    It’s a “shame” design-build won’t continue as an option in Louisiana past 2011, Mobley adds. He calls it a good process that saves money. “I think it could have a lot of applications for the state. Owners enjoy it because of the speed and the fact they don’t have to get involved with all the problems....They mitigate a lot of their risk by going to design-build, which means it costs less.”

    Ken Naquin, chief executive officer of Louisiana AGC, agrees design-build’s decreased risk of litigation brings long-term cost savings, but he says its main benefit is speed. He says the jury is still out on whether design-build is beneficial for the state in nondisaster situations.