Managing geotechnical risk on US design-build transport projects

Main Article Content

Kevin McLain
Douglas D. Gransberg
Micheal C. Loulakis


Awarding design-build (DB) contracts before a complete subsurface investigation is completed, makes mitigating the risk of differing site conditions difficult, if not impossible. The purpose of the study was to identify effective practices for managing geotechnical risk in DB projects, and it reports the results of a survey that included responses from 42 of 50 US state departments of transportation and a content analysis of DB requests for proposals from 26 states to gauge the client’s perspective, as well as 11 structured interviews with DB contractors to obtain the perspective from the other side of the DB contract.  A suite of DB geotechnical risk manage tools is presented based on the results of the analysis. Effective practices were found in three areas: enhancing communications on geotechnical issues before final proposals are submitted; the use of project-specific differing site conditions clauses; and expediting geotechnical design reviews after award. The major finding is that contract verbiage alone is not sufficient to transfer the risk of changed site conditions. The agency must actively communicate all the geotechnical information on hand at the time of the DB procurement and develop a contract strategy that reduces/retires the risk of geotechnical uncertainty as expeditiously as possible after award.

Article Details

Articles (Peer reviewed)
Author Biographies

Kevin McLain, Missouri Department of Transportation

Director of Geotechnical Engineering

Douglas D. Gransberg, Iowa State University

Professor and Greenwood Endowed Chair of Construction Engineering

Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Micheal C. Loulakis, Capital Project Strategies, LLC

President, CPS, LLC


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