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P r o c u r e m e n t

Constructive Selection Innovative evaluation process smoothes Del Mar’s building program

Images courtesy WKMC Architects.

by Stephen Sharpe

As Del Mar College looks to break ground this year on the final major project of a $138 million capital improvements program, officials of the Corpus Christi community college point to the program’s innovative procurement procedure as a singular success. The planning for the building program began in 2002, a year before the college district authorized a referendum that asked voters to approve funds to expand facilities and rebuild structures damaged by a tornado. WKMC Architects in Corpus Christi serves as the coordinating architect for Del Mar and is managing the seven-year building program. The firm also designed the master plan that outlined the locations for improvements at Del Mar’s three campuses. In addition, WKMC principal Bill T. Wilson, FAIA, working with Del Mar’s procurement director Chuck Tines, developed an organizational concept whereby architects and consultants were selected for each project. Notably different to other processes for procurement of professional services was the creation of individual evaluation committees to select all parties that would work together on individual projects. Del Mar’s procurement process has received accolades from the Community College Business Officers (CCBO), a national group that recognized the evaluation committee process with a 2004 Exemplary Practices Award. During CCBO’s annual conference held in Corpus Christi in November, Wilson presented a seminar on the history of the Del Mar program as a case study. His overview concluded with a summary of lessons learned. “Many small educational institutions have neither the in-house resources nor the internal systems in place to successfully execute a large-scale design and construction programs,” Wilson explains during his presentation. “Design-focused leadership throughout the multi-year building program has kept everyone focused on achieving exceptional results, not just meeting budgets.” According to Wilson, essential to Del Mar’s successful undertaking of its building program was its leadership’s commitment to changing a decision-making process that had yielded disappointing results in earlier construction projects. To effectively change the decision-making process in preparation for the May 2003 bond referendum, Wilson and Tines set out to narrowly define the goals for the building program and to research best practices by other organizations. They also developed an implementation plan to achieve the desired outcome. WKMC helped put together a budget for a $108 million bond election that the Board of Regents authorized in January 2003. Anticipation of unforeseen circumstances caused Wilson to earmark $13.9 million in the budget for inflation and contingency. (An additional $30 million from other sources ultimately raised the budget to $138 million.) The majority of the improvements were specified for the West Campus which was hit the previous October by a tornado, killing one person and causing damage totaling $1.5 million. In addition to necessary repairs, the construction of new facilities were planned to more than double the overall size of the campus from 250,000 sf to 480,000 sf. (See presentation slides above.)

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With WKMC subsequently hired to manage the entire building program, Wilson and Tines began to implement the steps they had earlier devised. To achieve Del Mar’s goals, they decided that the work would achieve excellence in both design and construction, and that the firms that performed well would be considered for re-hiring on other projects within the same building program. As part of the new process standards, they developed the organizational concept that called for assembling evaluation committees for the selection of members of the project team (including architect, engineer, contractor, and consultants) for every major project. Wilson, as coordinating architect, took a seat on all evaluation committees, along with members of the Board of Regents and the head of each department affected by that particular project. Tines served as a non-voting member of each evaluation committee. Also, the first member selected for each project was the architect, who then joined the evaluation committee – usually 10-12 people – to help select the other members of that project team. Wilson said a key factor to the success of the selection method was the effort to “de-politicize” the process. That was accomplished through a series of measures, including the requirement that all prospective parties give interviews and statements of qualifications; the “blind” ranking of contractor applicants before competitive sealed bids were opened; and committees voting with secret ballots. Stephen Sharpe is the editor of Texas Architect.

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