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Design-Build Method for Ice Arenas

by Peter Douglas and Jack Vivian

A myriad of design and construction methods are available to owners who seek to build a new or renovate an existing ice arena. All call for defined services to be provided, under a contract, to the owner. The scope and nature of such services can include anything the owner wishes. The selection of the proper method, appropriate to the situation, is an important decision for the owner and deserves careful consideration and consultation.

Different scenarios call for different approaches, including:

• Traditional design-bid-build

• Construction management not at risk

• Construction management at risk

• Construction under a guaranteed maximum price

• Design-build.

When an owner contracts with a single firm for both design and construction, this is referred to as a design-build project. The term “turnkey” is sometimes used to refer to a special case of design-build where the contractor performs a complete construction service for the owner. A design-build arrangement is often the result of a joint venture between a design firm and a construction management company. Oftentimes, facility consultants are also included in the joint venture.

The design-build concept has grown in acceptance in recent years, and all evidence indicates that it will continue to increase in popularity, especially in the ice arena industry where the complexity of the mechanical systems and refrigeration systems confuses architects, engineers and contractors. The increasing use of design-build construction by owners is largely due to economies of cost and time that can be realized by melding the functions of design and construction. Injecting contractor expertise and advice into the design process offers the possibility of achieving both time and cost savings for the owner. Because phased construction can be utilized under a design-build contract, the owner will likely have beneficial use of the facility well before he/she would with a more traditional linear (design-bid-build) construction arrangement.

The team concept is key to design-build. The owner and the designer/builder work closely in planning, design, cost control, scheduling, site investigation, and possibly even land acquisition and project financing. In addition, design-build has the potential of significantly reducing project cost and delivery time, while avoiding conflicts by having only one contractor accountable for the entire project.

When selecting a design-build construction firm for a project, the owner customarily requires interested companies to submit advance design concepts and cost proposals. A single-phase submission can be required from interested contractors to cover everything from design to construction costs. Compensation for these services is generally on a cost-plus basis. They are reimbursed for agreed upon costs plus a fee. Although fixed-price contracts are appropriate for some projects, others may use fixed-price-incentive contracts. These contracts provide for shared savings between the owner and contractor to encourage cost savings from the contractor’s originally proposed guaranteed maximum price.

Building an ice arena ought to be exciting, rewarding, and pleasurable. Usually, it is not. Too many variables, too many people, too many restrictions enter into the act; and the whole process of design and construction, from the decision to build to the completion of a facility, has traditionally been a fragmented effort, with architects in charge of some activities, contractors in charge of others, and, seemingly, fate in charge of the rest. The stress and near-anarchy, that so often result, can be greatly mitigated by the design-build approach. By centralizing all the administrative and control functions in the hands of a construction manager, this approach renders the process governable, and the improvements it brings to schedule and budget can be surprisingly high. The design-build approach is a sufficiently flexible concept so that a great variety of entities, both public and private, can use it, especially for the building of ice arenas.

Design-Build Study

A study was performed by Penn State University, funded by the Construction Industry Institute, to compare costs, scheduling and quality of three delivery systems: design-build, general contracting, and construction management. This study examined 351 projects. Seventy five percent were private projects and 25 percent were government projects. The study indicated that unit costs for design-build were approximately four and a half percent less than construction management and six percent less than general contracting. Common wisdom might tell you that if design-build is less expensive, quality will be reduced. This independent study argues that this is not true. Additionally, according to the study, the design-build delivery speed is at least 23 percent faster than construction management and 33 percent faster than general contracting.

Perhaps this is why, according to the Design-Build Institute of America, design-build is estimated to be 50 percent of the non-residential construction market in the United States in 2001, for all types of projects. Other advantages offered by the design-build method include a single point of responsibility for design errors; a performance warranty for design and construction; creativity and renovation; and reduced demand on the owner.

The attributes of a successful project are:

• Adequate flexibility of the owner to make decisions

• A good definition of the scope of the project

• A qualified contractor pool

• Ability to retain the contractor pool through pre-qualification and short listing.

The attributes of a poorly performing project are:

• Contractor engaged late in the design process

• Limited or no prior team experience

• Onerous contract clauses

• An owner lacking ability to make decisions

• No pre-qualification of bidders.

Design-Build Delivery Method Succeeds in Trenton

The citizens of Trenton, Michigan love hockey. Located 30 miles south of Detroit, in the shadow of the Detroit Red Wing’s success, Trenton has a long history of hockey competitiveness and success that is the source of community pride and excitement. Trenton High School has won eight state championships and five state runner-up titles.

Initially developed in 1962, Kennedy Ice Arena was one of the first outdoor ice arenas with refrigeration capacity. The facility was enclosed in 1966 and public restrooms, bleachers, a small concession, limited office space and modest changing rooms for teams were added. It wasn’t until 1990 that the addition of team locker rooms with shower facilities and a public lobby with concession was developed. These upgrades, at the time, were considered state-of-the-art. However, over the years, the demand for ice and the affects of time on the facility were evident.

In the fall of 1999, the city of Trenton found itself with a modest facility, compared to the rest of the Detroit suburban market, with one ice surface. Over the previous 10 years, a significant number of state-of-the-art ice and hockey facilities had been developed in the greater Detroit metropolitan area. This build-up was attributed to the increased popularity and growth of hockey, due in part to the success of the Detroit Red Wings.

Trenton has always been viewed as a respected leader within the hockey and skating community of Michigan. In keep ing with its pioneering history, the push to renovate and expand Kennedy Ice Arena was initiated.

The Director of Parks and Recreation, Patrick Hawkins, began gathering information and securing the necessary data to develop a 10-year pro-forma outlining the economic feasibility and benefits of a new facility. This research paid off in convincing community leaders to establish what in Michigan is called a General Building Authority, the first step toward making a new facility a reality. The purpose of the authority is to provide tax exempt bonding capabilities required to ensure financial success, allow certain independence in pursuing desired goals, and grant autonomy to perform without many of the restraints placed on governmental entities.

Now that the vehicle to secure future financing was in place, the next step in the process was to establish general criteria for desired elements to include in a new facility. Members of the community, with varying interests and backgrounds, were selected to assist with this process. The wish list included adding a minimum of one and possibly two additional ice surfaces, upgrading locker room facilities, enhancing the lobby area, providing additional programming/meeting space, upgrading the existing arena, providing a pro shop area and full concession, and to prepare for future enhancement. It was important for the facility to be equipped with the latest in energy-saving features and to have efficient operational strategies to improve financial success. Providing appropriate levels of security and cost effectiveness were also important. Most importantly, the facility had to be ready for the fall 2000 hockey season, a formidable challenge.

The request for qualifications was issued in December 1999 with submittals due in January. From these submittals, four design-build teams were selected to present concepts and proposals; then interviews were scheduled. Through this process, the board determined that the design-build delivery method would best serve their needs for control, economy, quality facility amenities and speed. The team of The Douglas Company of Toledo, Ohio, JRV Management of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Siegal/Tuomaala Associates Architects was selected to commence design and budget pricing efforts on March 6, 2000. The unwavering objective of the project was to have one ice surface ready for use by the end of September. This meant that design, pricing, permitting and construction for the facility had to be completed in six and a half months, an awesome challenge.

The first task was to determine the program parameters. A series of team workshops were organized to formalize the final design. The design vision included two NHL-size ice surfaces, significant viewing area in the bleachers, as well as the addition of private boxes on the mezzanine, a feature not offered anywhere else in Michigan. Provisions for dedicated locker facilities for high school hockey teams and women’s hockey leagues were included. Enhanced accessibility provisions for individuals with physical challenges were a high priority. Once the exact program was determined, within established budget constraints, architect Al Tuomaala, completed the schematic design process and the project proceeded to the firm pricing phase. A contract was tendered for complete design and construction of the facility on May 9, 2000.

As with any construction, this project was not exempt from its share of challenges and hurdles. Most notably, during the conceptual stage of the process, it was determined that the building not only would be located in a flood plain but in a flood way where construction is prohibited. Fortunately, Trenton’s Building and Engineering Department, headed by City Engineer Boyd Arthurs, had a close working relationship with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Working with the civil design firm Design Services Company, an affiliate of The Douglas Company, a solution was found. Poor soils on site and budget constraints presented additional concerns. All issues were resolved to the city’s satisfaction.

On May 9, the General Building Authority signed a design-build contract with the Douglas Company/ JRV/Siegel-Tuomaala team. This left five months for the team to complete the construction drawings, permitting and turn- over the first arena. Physical construction work commenced on May 11, only to find that the soils were much worse than the two soils exploratory reports had indicated. This caused a three and a half week delay to the project, due to necessary undercutting to replace bad soils.

The close working relationship between the team, Patrick Hawkins and the General Building Authority allowed this project to be completed on time and within the originally established budget parameters. This is a true testament to the integrity of the design-build delivery method. The first ice surface was delivered less than four months after issuance of the building permit. The second arena was turned over two weeks later.

In hockey, there is only one date that matters. This is the date that hockey season practice and games commence in late summer. It is critical to be able to make commitments for ice time to meet the needs of teams and allow the facility to move forward and be successful. If the opening date is missed, it creates a crisis for the facility that can ruin its reputation and jeopardize its financial success.

The city of Trenton had all of the attributes of a successful design-build experience and is now reaping the rewards with an exciting, state-of-the-art, successful three-arena recreation center. The facility has become a showcase for the community that draws people from all over. The decision to select the design-build method of project delivery was, in part, responsible for this tremendous success.

According to Pat Hawkins, the design-build team approach, bringing together a compatible consultant, architect, and general contractor, was tantamount to delivering the project on time and on budget. Hawkins will strongly urge Trenton to pursue future projects utilizing the design-build concept. He states, “Municipalities generally lack experience and expertise in all phases of a construction project. It only makes good sense to bring together a team that has the experience and can work together on these specialty projects. The benefits to the city and its residents are not only financial, but also in the area of service and public relations. How often do you find municipal projects that finish on time and on budget? We, in the city of Trenton, are an example and proof that it can be done, and should be done.”