Guidebook for Implementing Constructability Across the Entire Project Development Process: NEPA to Final Design

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Every Day Counts Program brought national visibility to implementing alternative technical concepts (ATCs) for incorporation in transportation projects and continues to encourage state departments of transportation (DOTs) to implement this alternative contracting method on projects delivered using design-build (DB), construction manager at-risk (CMR) or construction manager/general contractor (CMGC), and design-bid-build (DBB) contracts. ATCs have huge and well-documented potential for accruing sizable benefits in terms of cost savings, increased constructability, and schedule reduction. In almost every case, the approved ATC was in reality a previously unrecognized approach to alter the design and enhance its constructability by matching the design of a given feature of work with the proposing contractor’s preferred means and methods. National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 455: Alternative Technical Concepts for Contract Delivery Methods found that the major barrier to implementing ATCs on all types of highway construction projects is the perceived difficulty of permitting a contractor to revise commitments made during the environmental permitting process to receive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearance to proceed. While projects in Minnesota and Missouri have successfully changed their environmental permits to take advantage of potentially large savings from ATCs without a substantial delay in the project schedule, the perception held both in industry and by DOT project managers that any change to approved environmental documents will trigger an unacceptable delay for resource agencies to review, narrows the scope of the ATC consideration process. Durinng a FHWA Every Day Counts ATC implementation outreach workshop with industry, both contractors and design consultants agreed that they will summarily dismiss any potential ATC that alters the project’s environmental permit regardless of the potential cost or time savings. Some DOTs that have implemented ATCs will include a statement in a project’s solicitation documents to the effect that only ATCs that can be incorporated without further external review will be accepted. NCHRP Synthesis 455 also found that knowledge of project constructability was lacking in DOT planning, programming, and environmental staffs. Furthermore, these professionals have evolved a set of “acceptable” design solutions over the years of working with their local resource agencies. The result is that the NEPA clearance process has become more restrictive than absolutely necessary and literally constrains the DOT and its industry partners’ ability to innovate after the permit is finally approved. While changes in the permitting process are not the subject of this research needs statement, the intent of this project is to furnish a uniform set of guidelines for the application of constructability reviews during all phases of project development and delivery. The challenges demand a process and/or set of procedures that allow the agency to capture the benefits accrued by permitting ATCs on a construction project without violating the public trust and commitments that may have been made during project development. Ultimately, a sound business case must be made for each ATC as well as when and where including an ATC provision in construction procurement is appropriate. This ultimately requires a methodology to identify potential ATCs at a very early stage of project development and a common approach to conduct a tradeoff analysis during the permitting process to balance the time it takes to get final approval and the required amount of specificity articulated in permit commitments. The research objective then becomes to focus on extending the constructability review and value analysis process, which currently takes place during final design, backward in time to begin at the appropriate point in the planning and permitting process, thus leaving the widest possible set of options for design innovation, and construction means and methods, open for implementation in the project delivery process, without the need to revisit the permitting decisions. The research will benchmark the existing research on constructability and marry it to the state of the practice in project delivery procedures, planning processes, and environmental legislation, regulations, and policies. This study will assemble a set of effective practices and develop a guidebook that can be utilized by agencies to implement, based on local statutory and/or policy requirements, the application of constructability principles across the entire project development and delivery process. The guidebook should include a methodology to compare potential design alternatives on a basis of both potential cost and time savings. It should also incorporate guidance that allows DOTs to be able to justify the selection of a higher cost alternative on a basis of offsetting environmental/social benefits. Lastly, it is important to state that while the advent of ATCs triggered the need to relook at the environmental permitting process and ensure that it does not become unnecessarily restrictive, the proposed research is not merely restricted to projects using ATCs. Traditional low bid design bid build (DBB) projects encounter the same issues during the preliminary and final design phases; DOT and consultant design engineers suffer the same constraints as they attempt to develop a highly constructible design and a clear set of construction documents. Thus, the primary aim of the proposed research is to determine the minimum level of design specificity necessary to fulfill the statutory requirements to protect the environment without needlessly limiting the potential for post-permit design innovation.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Rogers, William

  • Start Date: 20160511
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 41735

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01598976
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: 10-99
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 11 2016 1:00AM