The design-build (DB) process is no longer a novelty. In the past ten years, contractors and engineers have fine-tuned the DB project delivery approach, utilizing it to build bigger and better structures at reduced costs.

As the demand for public infrastructure continues to increase and the funds to pay for public infrastructure continues to decrease, a “new” process is gaining momentum in the construction industry in the states (it’s been around for awhile outside of the US). We are starting to see more projects that add an “O” and “F” to the DB acronym.

The DBOF process involves a public-private partnership whereby the private entity designs, builds, operates, and finances a facility. In return, the public entity pays fees throughout the life of the project, often extending 30 years.

When done correctly, the DBOF process can be a win-win for all parties. However, public and private entities should be aware of the issues that can arise with these agreements. Among other things, these issues include the following:

  1. Legal challenges related to the public entities ability to pursue such a project delivery approach under the law.
  2. Potential opposition from unions.
  3. Lack of competition in the bidding arena because only a few entities perform such work.
  4. Risks related to the financial demise of the private company.
  5. High transaction costs related to the complex nature of these arrangements.