College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Gransberg becomes third faculty member to receive Distinguished Design-Build Leadership Award


Gransberg_DBIADesign-build project management has been an important part of the life of Douglas D. Gransberg, Iowa State professor in civil, construction, and environmental engineering (CCEE). Emerging in the market as Gransberg was beginning his career as an engineer, design-build’s nontraditional way of delivering construction projects has given him many opportunities in industry, academia, and research. After many years of experience in these areas and involvement in the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Gransberg was named the 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Design-Build Leadership Award at this year’s Design-Build Conference & Expo. This is the third year in a row that an Iowa State faculty member has received the award – Jennifer Shane (CCEE), 2010; Dr. Kelly Strong (CCEE), 2009.

Recipients for the award are chosen based on various criteria that are specific to each of the five categories: owner, industry professional, legislator, full-time faculty, and student. Gransberg, who was chosen for his contributions as a full-time faculty member, was surprised to hear that he had been chosen for the award.

Once the initial shock had worn off, he felt nothing short of gratitude. “The development of design-build contracting as a way to deliver construction projects is a topic that I’ve been involved in since the very beginning,” explained Gransberg. “So, being recognized by my peers for my work is very meaningful, and I ‘m just so honored they wanted to select me for this award.”

Joining not long after the organization formed, Gransberg has made a number of contributions to DBIA. He was a key contributor in the group’s efforts to develop a standardized approach to design-build. Working with public agencies, particularly government agencies, he was able to establish an approach that was used in industry. He has written three books on the subject.

Additionally, he has been involved in promoting DBIA’s goals of advancing design-build. He assisted in writing the national exam for certifying people in design-build contracting, worked on several research projects, and has been on numerous committees. For the past two years, he has been a member of the board of directors in which he oversees education and research initiatives on a national level.

Although Gransberg was selected for the award based on his academic contributions, he hasn’t always been a professor. Gransberg spent the first 20 years of his career in the US Army Corps of Engineers. After many years of traveling, he moved to academia to get a job where he the free time to see his two sons through high school.

With no plans to make an academic career, Gransberg took a position at Texas Tech and was surprised by what he discovered. “By the end of the first year, I fell in love with teaching,” said Gransberg. “I liked the idea of working with young people and having the opportunity to leave something behind.”

Continuing his new career, Gransberg held the Harold W. Connor Professorship at the University of Oklahoma before coming to Iowa State. He now holds the Donald F. and Sharon A. Greenwood Endowed Chair in Construction Engineering. At Iowa State, he has continued his construction engineering research and teaching.

Gransberg said he is currently collaborating with Jennifer Shane, assistant professor in CCEE, on two main projects right now. The first focuses on developing the next generation of project management theory, which includes design-build work as a specialization. Through their research, Gransberg and Shane were able to develop a guidebook for engineers. Thanks to recent success and a much higher than expected demand for their research, the $1.25 million project appears as though it will be extended past its deadline this year.

Also in the realm of alternative project delivery research, they are also researching construction manager (CM) at-risk project as another promising method to rapidly deliver needed highway renewal/rehabilitation projects. In this method, the CM is chosen based on qualifications and then serves on a team that consists of the CM, the owner, and the designer. This project still has over a year left of work as Shane and Gransberg are beginning to write a guide for implementing their research for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

In addition to his research in design-build, Gransberg is also teaching two classes this semester: Preconstruction Project Engineering and Management (CE 501) and Construction Cost Estimating (Con E 421).

DBIA 2011 AwardAlso on his agenda is his yearly visit to New Zealand. Since 2004, Gransberg has been doing funded research for the New Zealand Transport Agency. Along with his research, he also teaches two graduate courses at the University of Canterbury in the form of an intense one-week delivery.

Gransberg’s experiences in New Zealand as well as his contributions to academia in the United States have helped him obtain not only his most recent award from DBIA, but also several other awards throughout his career. In 2006, he was honored with the International Brian D. Dunfield Educational Service Award from the Association of Advancement for Cost Engineering (AACE). And, for his work with the New Zealand Transport Agency, he received the NZTA Road Innovation Research Award in 2005 and was named a Fulton Hogan Visiting Research Fellow in 2008.  Gransberg, hoping to make further contributions to design-build methods, will continue his work in academia, a place he truly loves.