Elevated Thinking: Design-Build Delivers Success

Q&A with Jeff Clevenger, P.E., Senior Vice President and Director of Design-Build Delivery

Michael Baker International is experiencing significant growth opportunities in the design-build market. Jeff Clevenger, Senior Vice President and Director of Design-Build Delivery, shares what is happening in this innovation-driven approach to project delivery and how Michael Baker stands out for our collaborative style that delivers fresh thinking.

What is Design-Build?

Design-build is an approach we often use when tackling a complex project. As the designer, we team up with a contractor at the outset of a project to collaboratively design and construct, leveraging the very best ideas. The resulting solution often presents the client with new concepts that are more efficient, faster, cost-effective, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

Design-build is a good fit when projects are complex because it allows for more innovative, outside thinking. It opens the door for additional thought processes to be factored into the project, such as, “Could we try this design? Can we make it less expensive? What if we rethink the drainage? Can we enhance the visual aspects? Can we accelerate the schedule?”

As I talk with owners across the country, I am seeing an increased interest in a more stepped or progressive process of design-build called “progressive design-build,” which introduces the designer-contractor team into the earliest stages of the owner’s project development, promoting even greater collaboration. This falls right in line with what Michael Baker is already doing: working in close partnership to deliver a successful project.

How Does the Client Benefit from a Design-Build Approach?

The biggest advantage is that clients get the best ideas from the designer and the contractor from the very beginning. As the designer, we are working directly with the contractor and pushing to uncover innovative ideas that can increase performance, lower costs and reduce the impact on the public.

What is it Like to Work on Design-Build Projects?

Members of our team who work on design-build projects get to contribute to world-class projects and live in different parts of the country to follow the big projects. To work on a $600 million project in this industry is a huge notch on your belt. The best opportunities for growth come from being flexible, open to transition and willing to travel to where design-build projects are located. We are continuing to invest in our design-build work. We have identified offices in 11 states where we are targeting growth for our design-build talent and where Centers of Excellence will serve as resources for the entire Company.

What Differentiates Michael Baker from Competitors in this Space?

I would say our biggest differentiator is that we are open to innovative ideas, conceptual thoughts and using our imagination. Something noteworthy that is happening now is that contractors are coming to us and saying, “On that last project, we really liked the ideas and concepts you brought, and we really like our working relationship with you. We would like to work with you as the lead designer.” It is interesting to note that contractors are asking us to compete for new work in geographies that are outside of where our offices are physically located. They are pushing our growth as much as we are.

What has Michael Baker Done to Position Itself for Success with Design-Build?

The growth lanes are open in design-build. We have been flexible enough to allow ourselves to go after larger and more complex projects. We are positioned to steer our own direction and take on more challenging projects, which has showcased the incredible talent of our employees.

What Will Design-Build Look Like in 5-10 Years?

Design-build will continue to grow its share of the construction market, especially as public-private partnerships (P3s) increase. P3 projects are traditionally design-build projects because owners want to build each project as efficiently and effectively as they can to see a healthy return on their investment. They want the innovation, and they want to work directly with the designer. Also, owners are looking to combine projects so that they minimize impacts on the public and create efficiencies. Instead of having ten $10 million projects, owners might have one $100 million project that features more complexity — a perfect fit for design-build.

About Jeff Clevenger

Jeff Clevenger joined Michael Baker International in 2015, bringing to the Company nearly 30 years of industry experience in design-build delivery, design-bid-build, program management, construction management, planning, design and implementation of highway, urban transit and infrastructure projects.

Based in Michael Baker’s Denver office, he is a specialist in the formulation of capital improvement programs and management of large, complex projects with alternative delivery methods that meet owner requirements.

Clevenger previously served as a Program Director at AECOM, a Managing Principal at Jacobs Engineering and a Project Engineer at the Colorado Department of Transportation. He is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies and the Design-Build Institute of America. Clevenger earned a Master of Business Administration degree and Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado Denver.

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