Progressive Design-Build on the UW Hans Rosling Center for Population Health

by Brian Aske, Director

Learn how the project team at the UW Hans Rosling Center for Population Health is using  progressive design-build to change the future of project delivery.


Designing and constructing a building is a complicated undertaking, leveraging the knowledge and skills of dozens of people and firms including designers, engineers, manufacturers, installers and many other experts all trying to anticipate and meet the needs of end users, building operators and owners. For decades, the design process entailed work performed mostly independent from fellow disciplines, trades, or users that was then handed off to general contractors, who inevitably had a whole new set of questions informed by their experience in the field.  The design traded hands, GC to designers and back, in a swirl of unforeseen issues and “what if…” questions. For those of us familiar with the model, its pitfalls are familiar:  design challenges, budgetary stress, and constructability concerns, and a general inefficiency of the process.  And a lot of that boils down to a simple fact:  the people with the answers weren’t in the room when the questions were being asked. 

 For several years, people in the industry, and particularly those at the University of Washington, have endeavored to reimagine the design and construction process from the ground up.  What if, they thought, we sat the builders next to the designers, engineers, and users during design and construction?  What if, instead of creating a design and crossing our fingers that it fit the budget, we designed to a realistic, current market-informed target budget?  What if we rewrote our contract so that the entire team, from engineers to builders, shared in the risk and reward of the project?  


And that is how the University of Washington Hans Rosling Center for Population Health is being designed and built. Designers sat next to builders, engineers next to tradespeople in a “Big Room”.  Instead of going back and forth on designs and budgets, design was detailed and dialed in with continuous value and constructability input.  And collaboration was key, as the success of each company was tied to the overall success of the team and project. 


Here, members of the project team talk about what it was like to be part of this team and how they leveraged the new delivery model to create a solution for many complex, high performance building demands using a critical design element as an example.