Flickr user Wally Gobetz via Creative Commons license

The House of Representatives successfully incorporated the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday after it was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This bipartisan design/build legislation, H.R. 2750, would reform federal project delivery procedures to support the two-step selection process, a means of increasing the number of firms that can practically compete to design and build a federal project.

The two-step selection process allows companies to first only submit their qualifications. The low cost of this initial submission lowers the barrier of entry and encourages more firms to compete for projects. In the second phase, the owner narrows down the number of applicants to the three to five most qualified bidders, and then asks those firms to provide more detailed proposals.

A single-step or turnkey process requires every interested party to submit detailed proposals up-front at a very high cost to bidding companies. This can discourage qualified firms from competing for a project since chances of selection are slim. Government agencies are also more likely to sacrifice quality to choose the lowest bidder, since careful consideration of so many proposals is often unrealistic.

In 2013, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the chair of the House Small Business Committee, introduced the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act, which would require agencies to justify and report when they shortlist more than five finalists on a specific project in the two-step process. The bill also limits the use of single-step design/build to projects that are less than $750,000. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) also introduced an amendment to include the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act into the NDAA for the inclusion of civilian and military construction.

The AIA has been leading on this piece of legislation for three years, according to AIA director of federal relations and counsel Jessica Salmoiraghi. After conducting a study with the Large Firm Roundtable, the AIA reported that the current rules cost design and construction firms a median of more than $260,000 to participate in a federal design/build project. The Institute argues that with an increasing number of finalists in federal projects, it becomes expensive not only for firms to compete but also for the government to review lengthy proposals.

“For the government to get the most out of taxpayer dollars, procurement rules must be reformed so that architects and designers can deliver projects that are safe, productive, and sustainable—without fear of losing money in the process,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, in a press release. “H.R. 2750 would do just that—in the process allowing a predictable number of design/construction teams to submit proposals and spurring more design/build competition.”

ARCHITECT will be tracking the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act as it travels through Congress. Follow the bill on twitter with #reformdb and stay tuned for more coverage.