DDC Report Reflects Faster Construction Due to COVID Changes In Procurement Process

Department of Design and Construction Logo Image Credit: DDC

The Department of Design and Construction has been able to complete capital projects quicker while still adhering to budgets and utilizing Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise while under COVID-19 contracting rules. On March 30, 2021, the New York City Department of Design and Construction released a report on how construction under the less restrictive procurement and contracting rules put in place due to the pandemic has helped to complete City capital projects much quicker than normal. The report, entitled DDC 2020: Delivering Innovation In A Challenging Year, explains how the Department was able to use alternative construction methods normally not available.

The report gives details on various Department of Design and Construction projects like the 470-bed field hospital built in Queens in 11 days and the three COVID-19 Centers of Excellence that were built in less than 7 months. Forty-six percent of the Centers budget was awarded to minority and women owned business enterprises. It is projected that under normal circumstances and with usual restrictions, the Centers for Excellence would have taken over six years to complete.

Typically the Department of Design and Construction must use a system that requires City contracts to be awarded to the lowest bidder that meets the qualifications. Without these restrictions the Department was able to use Requests for Proposals to award contracts to firms with good track records, qualifications, and quality. The use of Requests for Proposals allowed the Department to speed up construction while staying within budget.

The Department of Design and Construction utilized the Construction Manager-Build model of project management. Under this model, the management firm is hired through the use of Requests for Proposals and go on to manage the overall project and contracts for materials, labor, and other services. This model eliminates the typical procurement process and allows construction to begin earlier. The model also leads to early collaboration between the designers and the builders.

The Department of Design and Construction also benefitted from reduced public notice requirements; faster project approvals; and a revised role for the Comptroller timed to post-contract auditing. All of these changes came as a part of the emergency declaration.

Within the last year, the Department has managed to construct two large field hospitals, three COVID-19 Centers for Excellence, 28 COVID-19 testing sites, and eight mobile testing trucks. The department went on to upgrade four Department of Health and Mental Hygiene labs, supported the GetCool program, and performed over 400 inspections as a part of the Learning Bridges program. The Department is currently working on vaccination sites with 6 already completed.

Average construction time of Department of Design and Construction projects while taking advantage of the rules of emergency COVID-19 related work was as follows:

  • Testing Sites – 7 days
  • Mobile Testing Trucks – 20 days
  • Field Hospitals – 28 days
  • Laboratory Upgrades – 35 days
  • COVID-19 Centers of Excellence – 192 days

The implementation of changes to capital project delivery when not under emergency conditions will require the approval of the State government. Approval to use the Design-Build method of construction management only came in December of 2019.

Commissioner Jamie Torres-Springer stated, “We know the City’s capital construction process is outdated and inefficient, and that City projects usually take much longer to complete than comparable work performed elsewhere and even right here in New York City’s private sector. Our COVID work under the pandemic construction rules shows that does not have to be the case. There are alternative project delivery methods that work better than our current system, and we should examine how those can be made available for City agencies outside of an emergency.”

Council Member Helen Rosenthal stated, “Increasing the efficiency of the City’s capital process is something I’ve been interested in my entire career at the Council. Reducing the time it takes to deliver a capital project by a year is definitely a good thing. I’m happy to support it.”

Carlo A. Scissura, President & CEO, New York Building Congress stated, “DDC and the building industry repeatedly rose to meet challenges throughout this tumultuous year. The agency capitalized on emergency procurement and construction management methods to rapidly build desperately needed field hospitals, testing sites, vaccination centers and more.”

By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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