Back and Forward: John C. Webre

Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture president on civic architecture

Back Q&A Jun 11, 2018

Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture President John C. Webre offers his insight into civic architecture.  For a photo essay on regional civic structures, check out our June issue. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll email you when it’s available online.

What’s the biggest change in civic architecture in the past year?

Civic architecture is, by its nature, long lasting. So while the changes that take place within civic architecture are incremental, the way we work and the way that civic architecture is delivered is changing.  

Yes, we have an increasingly mobile civil service workforce, so the civic workplace is changing.  More space is dedicated toward collaboration, less toward dedicated office space, more “free addressing,” more convening spaces, more use of AV technology for video conferencing and other technological efficiencies so that more can be done with less resources.  

photo: courtesy

The civic realm, at least in California, has been leading the charge in energy-efficient workplaces. There are more sustainable buildings in California than anywhere else in this country, and [many of them] are public buildings. The State of California has led by example by setting very high sustainability goals for all of its buildings. Aggressively low energy budgets are set early in the design phase of projects, which make design teams really stretch in developing ways of cutting building energy use.

What do you foresee as the biggest change on the horizon in the year to come?

Design-build has entered the realm of civic architecture as a more and more common way of delivering projects. More jurisdictions are moving away from old school hard bid projects to a more collaborative design build method where a single entity is responsible for both design and construction.

Clearly, the delivery method for civic architecture in the future will be the use of progressive design-build as the preferred method by public institutions as it is able to bring on the design-build team faster and provide the owner with higher participation in the ultimate project design and construction solution. This change in delivery method is producing civic architectural projects that are more responsive to the goals of the clients and the ultimate needs of the public.  

Progressive design-build is the future delivery method of choice for civic architecture. Traditional design-build has run its course and has been shown to be unsustainable; as the cost and time involved in the creation of bridging documents followed by a design competition and ultimate selection of a design-build entity adds to the cost and schedule of a project — with little demonstrated advantages. The collaborative nature of progressive design-build will have a profound effect in the ultimate performance of our civic architecture.

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