Breaking Ground on Design-Build: A Q&A with Bryce Barler, Project Executive

Bryce Barler recently caught up with The Big Room to share career and industry insights, “aha” moments, and some potential benefits for design-build versus design-assist.

By Bryce Barler December 13, 2019

As the AEC industry continues to push the envelope with improvements in design-build and lean practices, it’s getting easier for a project to go from good to great by recognizing and appreciating the significance of integrating partners early in the proposal development phase. At the forefront of these improvements is Southland Industries project executive Bryce Barler. Barler is responsible for oversight of multiple large-scale design-build and design-assist projects as well as their project team staff members. He recently caught up with The Big Room to share career and industry insights, “aha” moments, and some potential benefits for design-build versus design-assist.

What got you into the industry? How long have you been in the industry? 

Bryce Barler: I signed up for a two-year industrial refrigeration program to become an HVAC technician in 2001. After finishing the program, I decided to get my associate of science in HVAC and eventually my Bachelor of Science in industrial technology. While working toward my B.S., I started working with Southland Industries during the day and attended college at night.

What career experience(s) led you to where you are today?

I joined Southland Industries in 2003, where my first project was a $75 million design-build effort for White Memorial Hospital, and my second project was a $80 million design-build hospital effort for Glendale Adventist. In the years following, I proceeded to work on a host of design-build and design-assist projects for Southland, ranging from $200 million to $800 million. More recently, I began overseeing multiple projects, including a design-build soccer stadium for the Los Angeles Football Club as well as numerous other small projects.

In a recent video for DBIA, you spoke about an ‘aha moment’ on a design-build project for a hospital in California. What can you tell us about this moment? How did it affect the outcome of the project?

Over the course of my career, there have been many “aha” moments. The best are those that you catch early that help the design and control costs. The [project] I spoke about in the video did just that—it simplified design, and reduced risk and cost for the owner. This was a simple change that we were able to implement in approximately 550 patient rooms. The specific example I gave was a design-build project in which our field staff was involved and proposed a more simplistic routing of the utilities that eliminated pipe and multiple fittings per room as well as hangers. Multiplying over 550 rooms allowed us to lower the labor, material and overall cost to the project by simply working together as a team to come up with better solutions and routing of the overhead utilities. When you take these savings, it becomes a significant amount of work and cost that can now come out of that project.

In your opinion, how can you make the most impact in a project as a design-build partner? As an individual?

As a partner, you need to get involved early and help all departments make necessary modifications to accommodate project needs. As an individual, you need to work as a team player – not just internally within your firm, but also externally with your firm’s project partners.

Can you tell our readers about some potential client benefits for design-build versus design-assist?

I personally always prefer design-build versus design-assist, as we self-perform both engineering as well as construction. A design-build project allows a company to further control design and costs, which result in significant savings to the owner. The design-build approach is one entity involved with making decisions that affect other team members and companies that results in streamlined project execution.

How have you seen design-build practice change within the industry?

Owners are looking more at the team members as individuals to see if they fit the team environment they are trying to create. LEED is becoming a common goal in the industry and will range in level depending on project. Creative contracts are including more and more stipulations on how a contractor is contracted and reimbursed, with savings going back to the owner, local hire requirements, targeted workers, MWSDBE requirements, etc. Our focus remains on the healthcare and hospitality markets.

This article originally appeared on Southland Industries’ blog, In the Big Room. Southland Industries is a CFE Media content partner. 

Original content can be found at

Author Bio: Bryce Barler is responsible for the oversight of multiple large scale design and construction projects as well as their project team staff members. His team staffs consists of Sr. Project Managers, Project Managers, Project Engineers, Design Engineers as well as field staff.