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Separations

The AIA believes the traditional design/bid/build method of project delivery has effectively provided the public with safe, functional, attractive and cost-effective courthouses, schools, libraries, airports and other types of public facilities. The AIA recognizes that other project delivery methods can be used successfully by public owners. These alternative methods include design/build, bridging and construction management. Owners should choose a project delivery method in response to the parameters of each particular project in order to ensure that the public interest is maintained and that the selected delivery method results in quality and cost-effective design and construction.

Mandate Waiver Testimony (March 2010)

Background

The Pennsylvania Separations Act was enacted in 1913. It requires public entities to solicit separate bids and award separate contracts for plumbing, heating, electrical and ventilating work that is part of a public construction project with costs generally exceeding $4,000. This is referred to as the multiple prime project delivery system.

Only four states require the multiple prime system: Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Illinois, and New York.

The multiple prime project delivery system requires public entities—such as counties, municipalities, school districts, municipal authorities, and transit authorities—to hold and manage multiple prime contracts, making the public entity responsible for the coordination of those contracts. As a result, the public entity increases its contractual liability exposure and is forced to be involved in contractual disputes, project delay claims by contractors, and the project’s day-to-day budget, schedule, and scope.

With the lack of expertise and resources to effectively manage a construction project, public entities too often find themselves handling contractual disputes and project delays that increase costs for the entities and their constituents.

In 1913, when the Separations Act was enacted, construction was a relatively straight-forward process. Electrical systems were in their infancy. Heating systems consisted of a boiler and radiators. Air conditioning and ductwork were nonexistent; and plumbing was minimal. Coordination of trades was simple then. Government entities simply hired a “clerk of the works” to manage the construction.

Today, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), mechanical, and plumbing systems are highly complex and complicated. Coordination of today’s sophisticated construction projects requires not only a high degree of expertise but also strong leadership authority to direct and control the construction process.

The requirement that public entities use one construction delivery system, multiple prime, is archaic. There are numerous project delivery systems that are used throughout the construction industry today. Public entities in forty-six (46) other states are not required to use only one project delivery system and are generally able to choose the most cost effective and efficient delivery system(s) to be used for the construction or reconstruction of a publicly owned building.