Study Evaluates Project Delivery and Procurement Methods for Achieving LEED Certification

Oct. 20, 2009

The first comprehensive study to explore the impact of project delivery methods and procurement procedures on achieving sustainable design and construction goals was released earlier this month. Sustainable, High-Performance Projects and Project Delivery Methods: A State of Practice Report was commissioned by the Charles Pankow Foundation and the Design-Build Institute of America. This ongoing study is being conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Colorado, University of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania State University, and Michigan State University. The first phase of the research aimed to determine the state of practice in green building project delivery and procurement. The full report of the first phase is available here:

The initial findings show that integrated delivery methods, such as design/build and construction manager-at-risk, are superior in achieving or exceeding LEED certification goals, and that procurement procedure also has an impact on the level of sustainability achieved.

Researchers evaluated the three most common delivery methods: design-bid-build (DBB); construction manager-at-risk (CMR), and design/build (DB). Under DBB, an owner contracts separately for the design and the construction phases, often awarding construction contracts to the lowest bidder. DB is a fully competitive project delivery system that awards contracts for design and construction to a single entity composed of one or several firms. CMR is a delivery system in which the owner contracts separately, but somewhat simultaneously, with a designer and a contractor who not only performs construction management services, but also has significant input during the design phase.

The five procurement procedures sampled in this study were low bid, best value, competitive negotiation, qualifications-based selection, and sole source.

To understand the state of practice, the research team employed a three-tiered research approach encompassing:

  1. industry survey
  2. content analysis
  3. structured interviews

The industry survey elicited 230 responses from LEED APs regarding the project delivery methods, procurement procedures, and certification level on specific LEED-certified projects. The content analysis was based on solicitation documents from 92 public and private projects representing more than $2.2 billion in building investment. Structured interviews were conducted with members of the industry, as well as with owners, to help interpret the results. Responses were received from 47 of 50 states, and the District of Columbia.

The study found that all project delivery methods had been used to achieve all levels of LEED certification. It also found that all procurement procedures had been used to achieve all levels of LEED certification; however, some delivery methods and procurement procedures were more successful. Success was assessed through the ratings by LEED APs who have completed LEED projects, and by identifying those projects that met or exceeded their initial LEED rating goals. Two key facts relating to success:

  1. Integrated delivery methods (DB and CMR) are used in 75 percent of the projects surveyed.
  2. Qualifications-based selection (QBS) procurement was the most successful procurement procedure.

The ability to integrate construction knowledge early in design is essential to maximizing sustainability; therefore, strong preferences among LEED APs for integrated delivery methods on LEED projects is not surprising. Integrated project delivery methods either eliminate price competition or include price as one of several factors that determine the contract award.

Sustainable, High-Performance Projects and Project Delivery Methods: A State of Practice Report provides insights for owners seeking to achieve specific sustainability goals. While all project delivery methods are in use, integrated project delivery methods are most commonly applied to projects seeking LEED certification. If owners choose QBS procurement methods to select team members, they may increase their chances to meet or exceed their sustainability goals.

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