WSU Spokane Design-Build Education Program Founder Recognized Nationally

SPOKANE, Wash. — Design-Build Institute of America recognized a Washington State University Spokane faculty member for developing one of the first graduate integrated design and construction education programs in the United States.

Darlene Septelka, WSU Spokane associate professor, received DBIA’s Faculty Distinguished Leadership Special Recognition Award at its annual conference in October in Boston.

Septelka received the award in part because of her research in alternative delivery and promotion of design-build, a construction method in which the owner contracts the architecture and construction of a project to one agency. Design-build allows agencies to build more cheaply, more quickly and with fewer litigation problems, she says. It also promotes more collaboration and innovation between the builder and the architect in an industry that has remained strictly segregated for years.

DBIA also recognized a WSU Spokane graduate student, Leandra Thompson, for founding a WSU student chapter of DBIA and for her research on leadership on alternative delivery projects. Alternative delivery projects involve a contractor earlier in the building process than in past standard practice. She was one of two students nationally to receive the Student Distinguished Leadership Award.

The conference serves as a backdrop for presentation of the annual National Design-Build Project Competition and Distinguished Leadership Awards. WSU Spokane graduate student and WSU DBIA Student Chapter President, Margaret Downing, and Septelka were awarded a $5,000 grant for their research proposal, Design-Build Market Survey of U.S. Government (Federal) Work. The Design-Build Education and Research Foundation received 52 proposals, short listed to seven, and awarded four grants.

Septelka is a member of the Northwest Construction Consumer Council and vice president of the Spokane chapter of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineers. She created the design-build track within the master’s of science architecture program at WSU Spokane last year to fill a need in the industry. Since then, the program — which is geared toward working professionals — has grown from three students to a dozen.

The field of study is housed within WSU Spokane’s Interdisciplinary Design Institute, which brings together design and construction students to study in an atmosphere that encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration.

For more information, contact Septelka at 509/358-7910,, or see the Web site at