Three takeaways from design-build conference

While the 2020 Design-Build Conference & Expo didn’t take place in person, the virtual conference was nonetheless successful.

By Brian Skripac January 19, 2021

The event allowed attendees to take a deep dive into multiple building tracks that included: Teaming & collaboration, design-build basics, tools and resources for success, virtual design & construction and many others.

From the outset of the conference and initial keynote presentation, it became clear that themes of trust, progressive design-build and virtual design and construction would permeate man presentations. It was a pleasure for both Praful Kulkarni and I took present during the conference and share our perspectives.

1. Trust

Former Blue Angel Lead Solo Pilot John Foley delivered the keynote presentation and focused on the “how” of high performance. While his experience in trusting his fellow Blue Angel pilots to be in the right spot when flying their 22 ton fight jet just inches apart from one another while going over 500 MPH is a bit different than our every day collaborative efforts on a design build project, there was still much to learn from his talk.

Foley’s approach to how you foster a high trust relationship, and then achieve coordination, teamwork, communication, innovation and more within a healthy high-performance environment is fascinating. Being able to create an approach to operational excellence and continuous improvement needs to be centered around a “glad to be here” mindset that John’s team adopted and echoed. There was much to learn from the presentation and something for everyone who seeks to be part of successful collaborative teams to take away from it.

2. Progressive design-build

As design-build delivery continues to evolve, Praful Kulkarni took the opportunity to moderate a discussing with Geoffrey Neumayr of San Francisco International Airport and Eric Smith from the University of California San Diego to highlight the success, trials and tribulations of moving from design-bid-build to design-build best value selection, and now progressive-design build.

The session provided incredibly valuable insight into the owner’s perspective to understand their intention and goals so those on the delivery side can focus on that through collaborative execution. The response from the audience proved overwhelmingly positive, reflective of the growing interest in learning more about progressive design-build delivery across the U.S..

3. Virtual design and construction

Over the last three conferences, the DBIA has embraced the importance of connecting the benefits of virtual design and construction with design-build and this year was another step in that evolution with even deeper collaboration with BIMForum. This year’s sessions even covered topics like Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) prefabrication can enable an element-centric target value design process, while also looking at how to move toward model-based preconstruction standards.

I also had the opportunity to present with friend and colleague Alex Belkofer of McCarthy Building Companies on how VDC planning and execution can drive successful design-build outcomes. This session focused on setting a baseline to the conversation where BIM is the tool; LOD is the language; VDC is the process. From there, the presentation mapped an integrated VDC process that aligns with a design-build project delivery model to drive value for the owner to achieve their goals.

While the conference had to be held remotely this year, we all look forward to being able to reconnect in person next year to network after these great sessions and spend more time sharing our experiences and opportunities with our industry colleagues.

This article originally appeared on CannonDesign’s website. CannonDesign is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at

Author Bio: Brian Skripac, director of virtual design + construction, CannonDesign