Design-Build Law Approved In California

California reforms infrastructure delivery with passage of SB 785; ensures design-build authority in California for next decade.
California reforms infrastructure delivery with passage of SB 785; ensures design-build authority in California for next decade.

California Approves Sweeping Design-Build Authorization

Design-Build Law Approved In California

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Design-Build diagram.

Design Build Institute of America (DBIA) applauded the passage of SB 785 in California. This action culminates the longtime industry effort to standardize design-build laws in California, and it is the eighth bill passed in California in the past year expanding design-build authority. SB 785, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, streamlines California design-build laws and provides clarity and increased opportunity for project owners and practitioners.

While design-build was first authorized in California more than 20 years ago, the state legislature went on to pass statutes that included numerous limitations to using design-build project delivery that resulted in many challenges, inconsistencies, and confusion. The passage of SB 785 now allows those state agencies who were previously precluded by law from combining design and construction services into a single contract or using a best-value selection process to opt for design-build delivery through expanded authorization.

Examples of agencies in California benefiting from the passage of SB 785 include:

  • The Department of General Services and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for public works projects in excess of $1,000,000;
  • Sonoma Valley Health Care District and the Marin Healthcare District, for hospital or health facility buildings and related improvements; and
  • San Diego Unified Port District, for buildings and related improvements in excess of $1,000,000.

Richard Thomas, Director of State/Local Legislative Affairs for DBIA says, “In practical terms, this patchwork of laws was so confusing that agency heads and practitioners would often use a less efficient delivery method, design-bid-build, simply to avoid the legal confusion design-build caused in California. Project managers often wanted to use design-build to deliver higher quality projects in less time with fewer change orders, but wading through the myriad regulations simply became too time-consuming.”

“SB 785 changes things for the better,” Thomas continued. “This new law streamlines California’s design-build regulations so that design-build is easy to use. Thanks to this law, it is likely even more of California’s infrastructure will be built using the more efficient design-build project delivery method.”

Design-build project delivery is an integrated approach that offers design and construction services under one contract with a single point of responsibility. Benefits can include faster delivery, cost savings, and better quality than through traditional contracting methods. A single entity decreases owners’ administrative burden and allows the focus to be on successfully delivering the project, rather than managing separate contracts. The approach can also reduce risk and result in fewer litigation claims for all parties involved. 

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