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Partnership for Washington Wine Science Center

Lydig Construction and ALSC Architects will take design-build approach on $23 million WSU project

by Peter Mitham
wine science center
A partnership between the city of Richland, Wash., Washington State University and members of the wine industry are pursuing a design-build approach for the new Wine Science Center planned for Richland.
Richland, Wash.—An innovative development process promises to ensure Washington state’s wine industry receives the best possible value for its investment in the $23 million wine science center planned for the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland.

Overseen by the Wine Science Center Development Authority—a partnership between Richland, WSU, industry and other stakeholders—the new center is following in the steps of the Robert Mondavi Institute at the University of California, Davis, by pursuing a design-build approach.

Design-build projects proceed under a single architect between the project owner—in this case, the Wine Science Center Development Authority—and a consortium that includes the architect and general contractor. The contract specifies a single price for the project and streamlines the process by bringing the owner, the architect and the construction team together from the get-go.

“There’s better vetting of the design with the owner, and so there’s better buy-in, sooner, faster, and better decisions can be made,” said Rusty Pritchard, a senior project manager with Hill International Inc., the firm handling project management for the authority. “The typical design-bid-build (process) is a little disjointed; here it’s more collaborative, and everybody’s working to find design solutions.”

Pritchard said the design-build approach is common in the private sector—“Private wineries use design-build all the time,” he remarked—but relatively new for public-sector projects.

Washington state law requires that public entities—including public development authorities—seek permission to pursue a design-build process as an alternative to the traditional design-bid-build approach that seeks separate contracts for design and construction.

“There are certain parameters that they have to meet in order to gain project approval,” he said.

The selection of Lydig Construction Inc. and ALSC Architects as the design-build team for the wine science center in the Tri-Cities was the result of a two-phase process that first asked interested teams to submit their qualifications for the project.

These were reviewed, with qualifying firms short-listed. The teams were then invited to submit design proposals for the project.

Teams were questioned regarding what might work best, how layout would benefit users and how they would manage the project’s budget and overall development process.

The Lydig-ALSC partnership was announced earlier this month.

“The design-build team of Lydig Construction and ALSC Architects had the overall highest score in all categories during the procurement process,” Rob McKinney, chair of the development authority, said in a statement when the team’s selection was announced.

A final contract is now under negotiation. Pritchard told Wines & Vines he expects it to be signed by the end June.

Design-build isn’t suited to all projects, however.

Port of Benton, for example, didn’t seek authorization to pursue design-build for the Walter Clore Center, the region’s other high-profile wine industry project.

Marv Kinney, a consultant working with the Port of Benton on that project, said the port was limited by statutory obligations to following a traditional, sequential design-bid-build process.

Under discussion for more than a decade, the Clore Center finally broke ground this spring and the central building of 15,000 square feet is expected to complete this fall. The total project cost is approximately $3.5 million.

The 40,000-square-foot wine science centre, meanwhile, is touted as the gateway to the Tri-Cities Research District at George Washington Way and University Drive in Richland. Construction is set to begin this fall. Washington’s wine industry has raised more than $7.4 million for the project, which was announced in 2010 and is scheduled for completion in late 2014.

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