DBIA Awards 2022: The Portland Building is Recognized for Historic Reconstruction
When it comes to project delivery, few methods are as cutting-edge as the design-build delivery, but what does it mean, and how do we differentiate it from a traditional delivery?
What is the Design-Build Delivery Method?
According to the Design Build Institute of America (DBIA), the design-build process is different from a traditional project delivery for a few reasons:
- Rather than managing multiple contracts, the Owner manages only one contract with a single point of responsibility.
- The single point of reference allows the designer and contractor work together from the beginning as a “Design Build Entity,” providing unified project recommendations to fit the Owner’s schedule and budget.
- Any changes are addressed by the entire team rather than in siloes of the project, leading to collaborative problem-solving and innovation.
It all comes down to single-source contracting, but what’s important here is the culture of collaboration inherent in design-build. Teams truly work as a team without an adversarial relationship between subdivisions, and that means everything for successful, innovative delivery.
The DBIA has a storied history of sharing the wonders of design-build with the greater industry. Formed in 1993, it started as a handful of engineers, architects, and builders who sought to make project delivery both easier and scalable. The organization is now the authority on the design-build process, comprised of not just professionals but academics, students, and leaders from all over the country.
What’s more, they host one of the biggest industry events in the country commemorating use of the method every year.
What is the Design-Build Conference & Expo?
The Design-Build Conference & Expo happens in various locations and hosts a slew of industry professionals who come to network and learn from one another.
Projects from all over the U.S. are nominated for their historic delivery methods, and experts from across the AEC industry judge and award firms based on a variety of criteria provided by the DBIA.
Otak attended the annual event in Las Vegas in November 2022, where we were up for multiple awards for our owner’s representative work on The Portland Building in our home city of Portland, OR.
What Did the Portland Building Win?
At the 2022 Design-Build Conference & Expo, the Portland Building was nominated for three DBIA awards in the category of rehabilitation, renovation and restoration. The project ultimately swept all three.
- Best in Process – Rehabilitation / Renovation / Restoration
- National Award of Excellence – Rehabilitation / Renovation / Restoration
- National Award of Merit – Rehabilitation / Renovation / Restoration
The awards reinforced the success felt across the project team, including the city of Portland. For the DBIA, success is defined in a variety of ways and the details of the Portland Building were clearly aligned with those criteria.
Delivering an Award-Winning Project: What the DBIA Looks For
Winning projects are all evaluated on the same criteria, based on DBIA’s Design Build Done Right framework.
Projects are considered if they achieve the best value while meeting design and construction quality, cost and schedule goals. They must also demonstrate advanced and innovative application of total integrated project delivery, including design-build best practices to achieve exceptional outcomes.
Credit: DLR Group
But what is the Design Build Done Right framework?
The overview of it is that it’s a universally applicable set of best practices and principles that can aid in the delivery of any design-build project. The DBIA provides a set of guidelines, and more importantly real-world techniques, that facilitate successful projects from procuring services to execution, exemplified by the following aspects of delivery:
- Schedule and cost performance
- Effective processes
- Interdisciplinary teamwork
- Problem solving
- Excellence in design
- Use of technology
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Based on these elements of successful design-build, Otak is proud to say we won multiple awards the evening of the conference, which we’ll get into next.
Building a Winning Case in The Portland Building
The Portland Building project is a 15-story high-rise occupied by City of Portland bureaus. As an internationally renowned architectural example of post-Modernism designed by Michael Graves, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and houses a number of government departments all working in tandem to make Portland run smoothly.
The project addressed the building envelope issues by covering the concrete façade with a unitized curtain wall and terracotta rain screen tiles that eliminated leaking while preserving its historic status and appearance. The restored façade also greatly improved the poor natural lighting which, combined with a full interior remodel, drastically transformed the building’s working environment. Otak also organized the temporary relocation of all the city’s 1,400+ staff to ensure that the city maintained normal operations throughout the project.
However, what’s really interesting (and unique) about the project is its cutting-edge delivery method, one that takes DBIA guidelines and brings them to the next level—progressive design-build.
Progressive Design-Build Delivery of the City of Portland’s Vision
The City of Portland initiated a $195 million project to reconstruct the building, making it the city’s largest capital project.
Such an innovative method of delivery was needed to address several of the City’s objectives with construction:
- Fix the enclosure performance problems—no more leaks and better daylighting
- Preserve the historic integrity of the exterior—get through landmark approval process
- Upgrade the seismic performance of the building to an appropriate standard
- Replace building mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems
- Remedy urban design deficiencies at the base
- Improve the workplace and public engagement areas
- Meet requirements for LEED Gold
What Does Progressive Design-Build Mean?
Essentially, a progressive design-build delivery method is a form of early contractor involvement that can help reduce risk and increase collaboration among all stakeholders. It’s the way a construction project design is developed by the owner and design-builders using a step-by-step process.
The DBIA again states that progressive design-build allows the design and construction team to collaborate during the earliest stages of project development. This enables the greatest amount of engagement between the three key players in a construction contract: the owner, the designer, and the contractor. Ultimately, Otak advocated that this unique method was best for meeting the needs of the project in terms of complexity and scheduling needs.
Best Value for Dollar Spent: Collaborative Team Environment, Optimal Efficiency
The Progressive Design-Build model allowed for the right voices to be in the room to make the best decisions at the right time. From the outset, Otak successfully met the greatest challenge of the method—getting all team members to buy in to a lean design process and trust it would deliver an innovative project. The team also utilized the “SmartStart” partnering process, where we discussed and committed to an equitable allocation of risk and project progress which was key to establishing a collaborative environment.
Schedule, scope, and design intent were optimized, as the entire team was at the table making informed decisions each step of the way.
Planning sessions and project milestone dates were incorporated into scheduling from the very beginning to inspire active participation between stakeholders for effective schedule management.
Quality assurance and control was also highly collaborative, and we deployed high-tech tools like VR, Clash Detection, and Laser Scanning for building information modeling (BIM) work to improve access to facilities and streamline operations of the building post-construction.
A huge part of this effort was not only relocating all city employees into temporary office spaces, but also bringing them back when construction was completed, and the building envelope was brought up to code. Thanks to the progressive design-build method these goals were accomplished through early planning and team effort to get the job done.
Design Solutions to Historic Reconstruction Challenges
With every project comes challenges. This can be particularly true for buildings of historic relevance, for which the Portland Building is a perfect example.
The City’s vision was such that the building needed to be drastically updated while maintaining it’s iconic design elements, while enhancing the working environment. The existing concrete exterior, external glazing, the famous Portlandia sculpture, and getting the space approved as a city landmark were all hurdles that made progressive design-build the choice of the greater team.
Considerations were also made to maintain the internationally recognized post-Modern architecture style, and the stakes were high. The building has historic significance of “exceptional importance” on the National Register of Historic Places, which means extra care had to be taken in order to both preserve and renovate the space. The building also needed to be upgraded from a sustainability perspective, a viewpoint that has become an Otak calling card.
Sustainable and Efficient Systems
In terms of being sustainable, the Portland Building was truly brought into the modern era. The project made improvements to light fixtures allowing for greater daylighting, reducing energy costs and carbon footprints in the process.
The envelope of the building also needed to be revitalized in order to fix leaking issues in a famously rainy city. Low emitting materials were also used to compensate for the existing concrete of the structure, which we did by improving existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, among others.
The project also pursued a LEED Gold Building certification, and the team’s efforts led to the project exceeding it’s goals in achieving both WELL and LEED Platinum certification.
Public Involvement and Inclusive Project Goals
Not only did the project need to be sustainable, but it also needed to be equitable to address the needs of the city and align with its values. The vision was to both inspire and influence the public, leading to a two-fold goal— serving the public well and becoming an employer of choice to bolster talent acquisition into the space. To align with those goals, our team led visioning sessions on both the public and employee experience, ultimately transforming the building’s poorly lit, substandard interior into a truly exceptional interior experience for all.
Social and community impacts were also top of mind. A targeted community outreach effort was implemented to ensure DMWESB firms were aware of upcoming opportunities. This effort included informational meetings, open houses, trade show events, one-on-one meetings, and sourcing a local non-profit to provide consultation to DMWESB firms bidding on the project. Additionally, the project promoted design and construction career opportunities by hosting eight separate tours for high school and college students. Otak is proud to say that in the process we exceeded MWDBE goals.
The End Result
By utilizing a progressive design-build framework, inspiring both the team and the community, and delivering on early promises thanks to early planning, the result of our efforts yielded a multi-award-winning project.
Otak would like to extend a formal thank you to the DBIA for bestowing us with these accolades, which we take to heart. We’re proud we had the opportunity to play an outsized role in the successful delivery of the project, and our mission to transform the built environment while keeping the community in mind remains one of our cornerstones.
You can find out more about the complete list of DBIA award winners, and we look forward to the opportunity of highlighting our projects in the future