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How a design-build model can help win major projects

Learn how Superior Construction's design-build model helps them win large infrastructure projects

4 min read


How a design-build model can help win major projects

Superior Construction

Tim Johnson

Reworking a massive interstate interchange takes years, millions of dollars, and meticulous planning and project management. After an extensive bidding process, the Indiana Department of Transportation selected design-build firm Superior Construction to design and build the INDOT I-65 / I-70 North Split project in Indianapolis.

In this post, we talk with Superior Construction’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Johnson about winning this business, what sets their offering apart and how they plan to manage a project of this scale.


What do you think will be the most challenging part about managing a project of this scale?

The velocity of the project schedule is the sport in the challenge. Constructing $316 million over an 18-month duration will certainly excite the right players. The owner has done a great job minimizing major utility relocates in advance of construct activities and eliminating right of way takes.

Moreover, constructing many project elements preceding the full closure of the interchange will offer significant schedule relief. Finally, constructing the project in a union environment assures reasonable availability of well-trained skilled trades. 


What are the technical requirements for the project?

Because of the urban location and substantial daily traffic volumes of the North Split project the owner has elected to employ a few exceptional material and design requirements. All superstructure reinforcing is required to be stainless steel and bridge decks and will receive a high-density overlay. Structural steel elements are required to be metalized. The concrete pavement design requires a 16-inch continuously reinforced section. Additionally, dolomite limestone is specifically required in the concrete pavement mix design. All pavement and bridge decks are required to receive next generation concrete surfacing. As a consideration to the adjacent communities the project requires an urban forest to be planted throughout the interchange. Additionally, the project has extensive aesthetics requirements. 


How will you go about subcontractor selection?

Considering the velocity and magnitude of the North Split project, in addition to conventional metrics including safety and quality, potential subcontractors must exhibit design-build experience and working within a compressed schedule environment. 


Describe the hardware and software you’ll use to meet project requirements, and why those solutions are ideal.

The following is a summary of hardware and software employed on the North Split project. 

  • Viewpoint will be utilized for all financial controls including cost and revenue reporting. It is a Trimble Company and offers the potential to be integrated with other technology resources. 
  • InEight will be utilized for project document controls, which offers great scalability and the ability to collaborate with a variety of external stake holders.
  • Trimble is being utilized for all surveying activities. This includes 3D modeling, machine controls and geometric analysis.
  • Propeller drone hardware and software will be utilized for advanced LiDAR data collection, editing and modeling. This effort will provide the project team with near real time as-built and progress models for analysis and potential dissemination to external stake holders. 

What set your company apart from the competition to win the bid?

The North Split project has been procured under a design-build agreement. As a result, the selected proposer has additional opportunities to introduce innovation into final design of the project. Because of this, Superior Construction was able to leverage modifications to the original geometric alignment. This resulted in major reductions in a variety of quantities while also expediting the construction schedule. Additionally, the revised geometry also facilitated the construction of many permanent features, “off-line,” not requiring traffic restrictions. 


You were selected as a design-build contractor for the project. What makes design-build more attractive than other delivery models, such as construction manager at risk?

The design-build delivery method is always a welcome alternative. It provides contractors the capacity to explore a variety of opportunities in perfecting a more competent design that offers both economy and schedule efficiencies. 


How will managing this be different with COVID-19 and safety measures that will need to be put into place?

Superior Construction harbors an exceptional commitment to safety. This is reflected in a variety of industry metrics that far exceed the performance of our peer group. Because of this our internal culture and resources are in place and positioned to address the challenges of dynamic health and safety environment, including that presented by COVID-19. 


With more than 28 years of construction experience and an operational focus that supports implementing foundational procedures, Tim brings a vision for company growth. He joined Superior Construction in 2015 and his commitment has resulted in pursuing complex projects and an expansion of our safety and equipment departments. Tim continues to drive continued growth and support Superior Construction being the contractor and employer of choice.