Effective January 1, 2024, public school districts in Illinois can utilize design-build contracts to increase efficiency and effectiveness in delivering projects, thanks to the recently signed bill P.A. 103-0491.

Wight has been using our unique version of design-build, a Design Led-Design Build (DLDB) delivery model, for nearly 30 years. We know from experience that it is the best way for school districts to deliver projects that enhance value while saving time and money without compromising quality. This legislation will help more school districts realize what our clients have already benefited from—there is a better way to bring value to their communities. We believe that our approach provides more flexibility and accountability without ceding control of design decisions to a contractor.

Wight’s DLDB approach was central to the success of multiple recent projects.

Community High School District 99, Downers Grove, IL

Backed by a successful referendum, Community High School District 99 (District 99) in Downers Grove wanted to maximize funds to reimagine their two high school facilities—Downers Grove North and Downers Grove South. Wight’s DLDB approach helped District 99 complete a multi-phase addition and renovation project at each high school one year earlier than traditional models to realize a substantial value benefit. Unlike traditional delivery methods, the team was focused on creative solutions to add scope rather than removing scope through traditional value engineering exercises often experienced with independent designers and construction managers. The team truly focused on exploring ways to deliver greater value within the Master Facility Plan framework and deliver outcomes greater than expected when the planning began.

Through inherent efficiencies of working with one team responsible for overall project delivery, District 99 was able to address more of the original Master Facility Plan objectives than was originally thought possible, while at the same time remaining within the established funding approved by voters and staying true to the project goals.

Aggressive scheduling strategies and accelerated decision making enabled the project to avoid annual construction cost escalation and extended general conditions costs estimated at an approximate value-benefit of $4.4 million. Overall, through enhanced coordination, early budget certainty, and emphasis on delivering value the 2018 Referendum Program achieved a value-benefit of approximately 19.7% of the ballot request – all within the framework of the approved District 99 MFP.

Community Consolidated School District 62, Des Plaines, IL

After years of cost containment, program cuts, and a growing backlog of deferred maintenance, the Community Consolidated School District 62 (District 62) approved an operating rate increase in 2005. After a few years of re-establishing financial stability, District 62 was able to redirect its efforts to restoring educational programs, addressing student learning gaps, and positioning the capital infrastructure of its buildings for long-term sustainability.

In 2007, District 62 engaged Wight to embark upon a modern-day renaissance of the entire School District serving over 5,000 students across 11 schools. The program was designed to support curriculum modernization and benefit all students equally and included the development of a centralized early childhood center to serve the entire district. In June of 2009, a three-phase, $109M capital improvement program was launched utilizing Wight’s DLDB model. The entire program constructed 115,000 new square feet (sf) and renovated 633,000 existing sf. Completed in August 2012 for the start of the 2012-13 school year, the district-wide capital improvement program cast a new path for the school district and community.

Through a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) agreement, cost certainty was established early in the design process for each group of projects within a phase. As construction work commenced by phase, design work commenced on the next phase projects. By providing a single point of accountability across the program, all design and budget allocations were able to be managed by a team focused on overall program success rather than individual project metrics. The use and allocation of contingency across each phase was adjusted to respond to the changing dynamics and conditions at each existing school building. This flexibility assured that the work would equally benefit all students and guaranteed that late-phase work would not have to be scaled back. This also enabled targeted design work to be completed and implemented without added layers of fees, overhead and mark-ups as all work was completed under the GMP agreements. All efforts were aligned with the goal of providing the best possible learning environments for current and future generations of students.

Valley View CUSD 365U

After being selected in the late 1990s by Valley View CUSD 365U (District 365U) as the District Architect, Wight forged a trusted partnership with District 365U that spanned three decades and delivered over 30 projects through the DLDB approach. The scope covered a wide range of project types, including new construction, renovation/additions, and renovations to shift grade-level structures. The total capital investment exceeded $300 million for the Bolingbrook/Romeoville-based school district. As a large unit district with 21 schools serving over 18,000 students, the primary work spanned over a 20-year period with two successful referenda.

Project highlights include:

  • Three new elementary schools and one new middle school
  • Bolingbrook High School, which became the first LEED Certified school in Illinois
  • A major addition/renovation to Romeoville High School
  • Accelerated implementation of all-day kindergarten at 12 elementary schools
  • An 18-month addition/renovation program at eight elementary schools and three middle schools
  • A new transportation center and maintenance facility
  • Major facility renovations to shift a high school to a middle school, a middle school to an elementary school, and an elementary school/administrative center to an early childhood center

After the initial projects in the late 1990s, the district leveraged the DLDB approach for subsequent projects because it provided:

  1. Early cost certainty through Wight's GMP model
  2. Speed of implementation with expedited decision-making
  3. Flexibility to define scope/design intent without impacting budget or schedule
  4. A single point of responsibility across multiple, simultaneous projects
  5. Flexibility to seamlessly shift capital funds in and out of projects without delay or added fees

Speed was critical to the successful implementation of the all-day kindergarten program. With design 75% complete in October, the district needed to roll out the all-day Kindergarten (ADK) program by August to commence the following school year—10 months later. Leveraging the DLDB approach, phased bidding was placed into four groups to help manage trades and minimize risk in the event of subcontractor performance issues. Mobilization occurred in early spring, excavation for additions began in late March, and site work was accelerated. The entire $13.7 million ADK program was successfully completed with only 10 summer weeks to complete interior work and the balance of construction.

Rhodes School District 84.5

Located in River Grove, Rhodes School District 84.5 (District 84.5) leveraged the simplicity and accountability provided through Wight’s DLDB model for their recent $16M Early Childhood Addition and Renovation to Rhodes School. Successfully utilized for two previous projects, the district appreciated the partnership, efficiencies, and flexibility that allowed them to successfully achieve their goals. One of the key benefits Wight’s DLDB approach provides is that school districts do not cede control over scope refinement and quality decisions to the contractor early in the design process.

In DLDB, the architect and builder work together, working closely with the school district from inception to completion to maintain design goals without delays or added costs, while still realizing maximum cost certainty. More importantly, under the new legislation, school districts miss out on opportunities to realize cost savings and add value back into the project as the work develops. When it comes to something as important as enhancing the learning environment for students, districts should maintain control over their project from start to finish.

Read more about the Early Childhood Addition and Renovation to the Rhodes School here.

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