New York City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has announced a strategic plan to curb cost overruns and delays that have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on municipal projects.
Processes to reduce the costs of expensive change orders are part of the proposals in the DDC’s Blueprint for Construction Excellence. The plan also includes modernizing procurement, innovative project delivery tools, empowering project managers, and transforming IT systems.
“I was appointed commissioner in July of last year, and we immediately … began to do a deep dive into processes that govern DDC and saw where the problems were,” Lorraine Grillo, NYC’s commissioner of design and construction, told Crain’s New York Business ahead of her presentation at the New York Building Congress’s annual meeting on Jan. 24. Grillo also leads the School Construction Authority and has been credited with turning that formerly scandal-plagued agency around, Crain’s reports.
The department’s report lays out a path to bring projects in on time and on budget and make dealing with government less of a headache for vendors—which would increase competition and attract more bidders, including minority- and women-owned businesses, Crain’s reports.
“One of the things has delayed the projects over time is changes: having the sponsor agency make changes in the middle of a project or at 90 percent design, they want to add a floor to a building,” Grillo said. “We’ve instituted a process where we sit down at the beginning, everybody agrees on the scope and signs off on it, and then we have the project fully funded.”
The new rules, many of which the department hopes to complete by 2020, would create a dedicated pot of funding for change orders, which can require requesting additional capital and bring a project to a standstill.
Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future and an author of the 2017 report showing cost overruns, told Crain’s that he was encouraged by the proposal, which could help the city stretch its capital dollars and restore faith in the system. However, he sounded a note of caution.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s refreshing. But I also think the Department of Design and Construction can’t do it alone,” he said. “For this to have the impact it deserves, it needs to be embraced by (the budget department) and so many of DDC’s partners in government.”