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New Law Allows School Districts to Enter Design-Build Contracts

Education K-12 Education

Governor Pritzker recently signed P.A. 103-0491 (previously SB 1570) into law, which will allow school districts to enter into design-build contracts—as opposed to the currently available design-bid-build delivery model—beginning January 1, 2024.

Under the current design-bid-build delivery model, school districts are required to enter separate contracts when contracting with design professionals, general contractors and or construction managers. Under the new law,  school districts may use the design-build delivery model, which significantly streamlines the contracting process for construction projects.  The design-build model is a delivery system that provides responsibility within a single contract for architecture, engineering, land surveying, and related services, as well as the labor, materials, equipment, and other construction services for the project.

The Public Act establishes an extensive request for proposal (“RFP”) process for soliciting design-build contracts and requirements for the submission of proposals. It creates a two-phase procedure for the selection of a successful design-build contract, in which design-build entities are evaluated and shortlisted based on qualifications (Phase 1) and then undergo technical and cost evaluations (Phase 2). The law sets forth various mandatory criteria that must minimally be included in the RFP for each phase. Notably, a licensed design professional must be employed or engaged by a school district to prepare technical criteria for the RFP and to evaluate the submitting entity’s ability to meet such criteria. Where the total overall project cost is less than $12 million, the public act allows school districts to combine the two-phase selection procedure if certain enumerated requirements are met. Finally, the new law sets forth procedures and requirements for awarding design-build contracts and reporting and evaluating design-build contracts. The law mandates a weighted evaluation process which includes a hybrid approach to awarding contracts based on qualifications and price. Project price may only be 30% of the weighted criteria.

The new procedures, though extensive, offer a potentially straightforward approach to hiring a single team for school construction projects. Given the newness of the design-build approach for school districts and extensive nature of the prescriptive process required by the law, we encourage school districts to work closely with legal counsel.

If you have any questions regarding P.A. 103-0491 and its applicability to your institution, please reach out to one of the authors of this post or any Franczek attorney.