An Argument for Design-Build — Via The Korte Co.

Ask an architect for his ideal structure, and you might get an unbuildable landmark. Ask a contractor for the same, and you might get a box. But ask an owner, and you’ll probably get something like this: a functional facility that meets business needs, comes with the latest building technology, looks great, lasts, provides energy savings and can be built quickly at a good price.

As solutions providers, it’s our job to step beyond the narrow silos of the traditional architect, contractor or specialty contractor and deliver results. Given today’s complex building needs and aggressive projects, we must align our thinking, strategies and solutions as a cohesive team. And we need a project delivery method that makes it possible.
Fortunately, one has been proven time and again to create a successful team environment that fosters smarter projects, smoother delivery and reductions in risk, cost and schedule — not just for owners, but also for project teams. That method is design-build.

Single-Source Responsibility Fosters Team Collaboration

How many times have you seen something like this happen on a job? An architect designs a facility, then a contractor wins the job and begins construction, but a specified building solution is impractical or expensive to build. A change order is requested, the architect and contractor spar over whose fault it is and the owner is stuck with a higher bill and project delays. In many traditional design-bid-build projects, this is standard operating procedure.

Now picture this: Architect, contractor, owner and specialty contractors sit down with a proposed, early-stage design. This multidisciplined project team reviews the design for potential issues of cost, schedule and constructability. Specific strategies are developed to alleviate any ambiguities left in the design, and any potential problems are identified, solved and averted before construction begins. Sounds a lot better, right? That’s how it works in design-build.

In the design-build project approach, one entity takes single-source responsibility for all project aspects. All team members are contractually aligned from the start, instead of working against each other and taking on concerns of contractual blame. Not only is life easier for the owner, but also for all project team members, who are freed up to solve problems through collaboration.

Create Opportunity to Addand Capture Value

In most any job, the best opportunities to capture value are before the project begins and in early design. Specifically, by bringing together the expertise of a full team and working in open discussion with the owner, you can align the project to achieve maximum value. Whether you’re building a distribution center to support logistical efficiency or a hospital to support quality care, collaborating up front as an expert team allows you to define top-level and specific goals, then identify the most sound design and construction solutions.

Early stage designs incorporate the expertise of a full team and can be adapted to put the project on a course for success. The entire job becomes an exercise in value engineering, with specialty trades and domain experts gaining the ability to offer value-added solutions on everything from energy efficiency to foundation construction and flooring materials. Through design-build, your team and your project become more valuable to the owner, who reaps the value of a smarter project.


Risk Is Actually Reduced

Some contractors shy away from taking on the design risks associated with design-build. In our experience, there’s far greater risk in NOT taking some ownership of the design process. To us, the look and feel of a facility is only one part of the design. Without incorporating cost, schedule and constructability analysis into the design, it’s incomplete. And an incomplete design leads to change orders, delays, quality concerns or worse — contract disputes and even safety issues. Simply put, it’s more risky to deal with change orders, delays and problems on the jobsite than it is to get it right from the start. Design-build reduces risk by bringing together the whole team and ensuring potential problems are addressed before they become costly.

Results Speak for Themselves

Starting with defined project goals and best-value solutions, design-build paves the way for smarter construction and cost savings. Then, with solutions identified and all parties on-board, your project team has the freedom to aggressively deliver innovative strategies that add value. Jobsite preparation can overlap latter sections of the design process, with project elements nested for fast-track delivery. Designs can better account for how the structure will actually be built and how materials will be installed. Clashes in the use of space can be avoided, creating the opportunity to deliver better solutions for building enclosures, MEP systems, specialty systems (e.g. conveyors in a warehouse) and everything in between.

The result is a faster, higher-quality project delivered at the best price, and the numbers back it up. According to a 2014 study conducted by McGraw Hill Construction, 20 percent of design-build projects are completed ahead of schedule — a far higher number than design-bid-build projects that are completed early. And a detailed 1998 study of 351 projects conducted by the Construction Industry Institute and Penn State Research, found that design-build provides:

• 6.1 percent less unit cost than design-bid-build
• 33.5 percent faster project delivery than design-bid-build
• 5.2 percent less cost growth than design-bid-build
• 11.4 percent less schedule growth than design-bid-build

The results speak for themselves. With design-build, you can save time and money for owners and yourself.

Todd Imming is the chief marketing officer with The Korte Co., one of ENR’s Top 100 Design-Build firms nationally. More than 90 percent of its work is design-build.


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