Project Chief Engineer: An Industry Review of a New Position on Design-Build Teams for Major Transportation Projects

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Journal of Legal Affairs and Dispute Resolution in Engineering and Construction

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One of the main challenges faced by state DOTs in large and complex design-build (DB) projects is to ensure that the DB team upholds the highest standard of care in making complex engineering decisions involving multidisciplinary design works systems integration. It highlights a need for a position capable of managing engineering design integration throughout both design and construction services in DB projects. The main objective of this exploratory study is to identify the engineering decision-making practices in the DB environment by exploring opportunities offered by a new engineering leadership position, titled project chief engineer, in the DB team. This study conducts in-depth interviews with 40 subject-matter experts from a range of the DB transportation infrastructure industry, including highway contractors, design consultants, public owners, owner's representatives, developers, legal experts, and insurance experts. Thematic analysis methods examine the interview data and identify seven major themes related to the new position: (1) benefits; (2) challenges; (3) types of projects that gain value from the new position; (4) areas that need the attention; (5) recommendations for the job descriptions; (6) best practices for implementing the new position; and (7) interface with other DB team members. The results show that this new engineering integration leadership position requested in the DB team is expected to add value to large and complex DB projects. This position requires a unique set of skills both in design and construction that may limit the pool of qualified candidates for the engineering leadership position. This study contributes to articulating the value of the new engineering leadership position on the DB team as a systems integrator to advocate for good design and to ensure an appropriate standard of care exists for all aspects of the multidisciplinary engineering decision-making process in the DB transportation infrastructure projects. It is anticipated that this study will offer constructive guidance on streamlining project delivery in the DB transportation infrastructure market.