UC Irvine Bison Avenue Surface Lot Design-Build

The Design-Build team of Sully-Miller Contracting and KPFF Engineering, Inc. was awarded the $3.5M Bison Avenue Surface Lot Design-Build project from the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) after a challenging and highly competitive pursuit. This alternative delivery project was procured with a Request for Proposals to anonymously select a best-value contractor. Submitting firms had to remain anonymous and omit any identifying information or experience from their submission. This Design-Build project will provide 1,000 stalls and 20 electric vehicle charging stations for UC Irvine faculty, staff, and students.


UC Irvine has a parking supply-and-demand imbalance. They lost approximately 1,200 parking spaces between 2007 and 2015 due to campus expansions but have been able to find ways to functionally absorb that loss. With UC Irvine’s forecasted growth combined with additional building projects in the works, the University will lose an additional 900 to 1,700 parking stalls between 2017 and 2020. This Bison Avenue Surface Lot Design-Build project will mitigate the impacts of future parking space losses while providing accessible parking for university students, faculty, and staff.

The proposed project will construct an approximately 330,000 square-foot parking lot that could accommodate up to 1,100 spaces on the approximately 7.6-acre site located just off the busy Bison Avenue. The University will anonymously select the best-value Design-Build contractor to complete the project from design assistance to site clearing to the final construction phase. Scope includes site clearing and preparation, construction of the paved-surface-parking-lot as well as the associated curbs, gutters, driveways, and sidewalks. The additional scope will include site drainage and stormwater management, site lighting, emergency call stations, and electrical infrastructure for future electric vehicle charging stations which will be included along with aesthetic landscaping and irrigation systems. Part of the University’s goals for the proposed project is accommodation for the future installation of an information booth and security access gate if later deemed necessary.

The specificity of the scope, the busy site location with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and the limited scope of information included in the Request for Proposals made this project pursuit a challenge for Sully-Miller. Mission Critical spearheaded the pursuit as the Pursuit Manager and worked with the Sully-Miller/KPFF team to develop a Statement of Proposal that focused on approach-based solutions, betterments, and risk mitigations while remaining anonymous.

Technical Approach

Mission Critical was the Pursuit Manager for this Design-Build procurement. The Sully-Miller/KPFF team was supported by the addition of Ridge Landscape Architects and tk1sc Inc. The unique challenge for the team, as well as Mission Critical, was the complete anonymity built into this Design-Build procurement. The Sully-Miller/KPFF Design-Build team submitted under the assigned pseudonym “Bison 4”, and no information included in the proposal indicated, even indirectly, which firm was submitting. 

The anonymous Design-Build model had two significant effects. First, this model limited the scope of information included, barring detailed accounts of previous experience and personnel expertise that could identify Sully-Miller/KPFF as a submitter. Second, the anonymous nature of the procurement placed the emphasis on narrative content, approaches, and innovations. Without identifying team members, Mission Critical ensured that the experience of the highly qualified Sully-Miller/KPFF team was accurately represented in the proposal. We emphasized their strong capacity to meet the most challenging aspects of the project scope along with their ability to deliver seamless design and construction services. The pairing of strong ideas and approaches from Sully-Miller/KPFF combined with Mission Critical’s ability to create clear and scorable content was the key to this win.

To accommodate the accelerated procurement schedule, Mission Critical’s internal CADD and Modeling Group led the development of renderings, 3D models, and landscape visualizations for the project. Mission Critical worked as a seamless extension of KPFF’s engineering team. We were successful in producing the full site model within 6 days of the release of the 30% design package and our team managed rapid updates to the models and imagery at weekly design iterations to the final 60% design submittal.

The Mission Critical writing department worked closely with Sully-Miller and their engineering partner KPFF to outline and expand upon the details of the team’s innovative approaches to land use, green design, and environmental compliance. In a busy, active campus setting off Bison Avenue, there were plenty of opportunities for the team to elaborate on their plans to minimize impacts to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, avoid work that would affect nearby wetlands, and provide continuous connections vital to maintaining multi-modal campus traffic. Mission Critical leveraged internal design capabilities to visually represent the team’s designs, process, and approach. The visual details of the technical proposal also displayed the team’s intimate knowledge of the site environment, risks, and potential value engineering opportunities that could benefit the University.


The UC Irvine Bison Surface Lot Design-Build pursuit is a prime example of the successful integration of a Design-Build team with no prior working relationship or pursuit experience together. Mission Critical’s role in managing the pursuit was key in allowing each team member to focus on their specialty role.

  • Rather than writing narratives and making edits to exhibits, Sully-Miller’s construction, scheduling, and engineering personnel focused on supporting KPFF during design development with best practices, innovative construction methods, and the development of value engineering proposals.
  • Since the Mission Critical team developed content, graphics, and the CADD/3D modeling for the pursuit, KPFF was able to focus their resources on developing a best-value design that met the capabilities of the contractor and the vision of UC Irvine.

Because each firm team focused on their role, rather than the management of the pursuit, the team developed a strong portfolio of value engineering concepts. This resulted in both a strong design that met the vision and needs of the University and a technical proposal that strongly conveyed the team’s proven processes and approaches to delivering a collaborative design-build effort.

In many cases, clients approach Design-Build or Best Value procurements with the mindset that “lowest price always wins.” While this may be true in some instances, the capability of a strong Statement of Qualifications or Technical Proposal to overcome a higher price proposal is proven. In winning the Bison Surface Lot project, the Sully-Miller/KPFF team was able to offset a slightly higher price proposal with a strong technical-point score to secure this important best value win.

Key Information

Alternative Delivery Experts

Great pursuits and winning proposals require amazing ideas, the right people, and the grit to get the job done.

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