The Separations Act is a Pennsylvania law passed in 1913 requiring public institutions to seek separate bids from at least four different prime contractors. This approach is known as a multiple prime project delivery method.

What does "multiple prime" mean?

The PA Separations Act requires awarding significant portions of a project (building, electrical, plumbing, HVAC) to separate independent contractors during the bidding process. This process prevents these independent contractors from knowing or understanding the scope and details of the overall project.

A prime contractor (or general contractor supervising the project) bids on a project individually. When awarded a contract, he assumes responsibility for the entire project. This allows the prime contractor to manage all work elements simultaneously, bringing collaborative teamwork to the managerial process.

Yes. High-performance buildings operate at maximum efficiency when functioning as a single unit.  LEEDv4, the latest building certification version from the U.S. Green Building Council, insists on the need for integrative project planning and design during pre-construction. Collaboration is critical for success. The Separations Act renders this impossible because multiple prime construction imposes four separate projects occurring simultaneously without unifying collaboration.

No.  It can accentuate jurisdictional disagreements. For example, a long-standing principle maintains that plumbers' work is inside 5 feet of the building line. Some site contractors place all other utility lines on a public project with laborers. A Pennsylvania court deemed this a violation of the Separations Act, despite the fact the institution consigned the site work in the general contractor's package, not the plumbers' package.

Yes.  Design documents often confuse prime contractors regarding responsibility for specific work. A single prime contractor is responsible for the entire scope of the project, eliminating any gaps in the range of work coverage while formalizing accountability.

No.  General contractors use subcontractors known for their reliability and quality work. However, on Pennsylvania public work projects, the public institution doesn't know the identity of the subcontractor until the awarding of bids. This results in the loss of a critical unifying element as the institution attempts to manage at least four independent companies that probably lack coordinated work experience. If only one subcontractor has a delay, it launches a trickle-down effect, impacting the other companies. These disputes often turn to the government entity for a legal remedy. A single prime can more easily resolve clashes because they hold retention funds from all subcontractors.

On bid day, multiple prime delivery contractors submit artificially low forecasts. This translates into a lack of coordination and inevitable increases in change orders that erase alleged savings while increasing the overall cost of the project.

Design-build is a project delivery system with one independent entity — the design-build team — operating under a single contract providing design and construction services to the project owner or institution. This results in one qualified entity and a single contract offering a unified workflow from the initial concept through completion. Design-build is also known as design/construct and single-source responsibility.

No, the two are unconnected. The Separations Act relates to publicly funded projects and how contractors submit BIDS for the opportunity to perform the job.

Prevailing wage relates to how workers are paid on those jobs and is an entirely different piece of legislation.

It is an antiquated 1913 law that creates a barrier to modern construction delivery methods. Taxpayers pay for these increased construction costs and expensive delays.

Only Pennsylvania requires it for all public construction. Two other states have a less restricted version of the Separations Act. 

No.  The federal government does not employ a multi-prime construction delivery system, and private industry uses it infrequently, and only for specific circumstances.