It’s always an exciting opportunity when a business client decides to build a new commercial building. It’s also a big investment with an element of risk. If you feel a bit stressed out thinking about what could go wrong with the design and construction process, you are not alone. Even the most positive-thinking person can’t ignore the possibility that things can spiral out of control – increasing costs and time delays – between the design phase of a project and completion.
In the typical design-bid-build approach to construction, contractors can run into situations where unconventional designs or unusual building materials don’t work when construction is in progress. Or, the general contractor with the low bid may fail to deliver quality service, and he may not properly synchronize subcontractor schedules to keep the project on time. A litany of bad scenarios can develop in the inherently adversarial design-bid-build approach to construction delivery.
Design-Build eliminates potential problems at the outset
Since the early 1980s, commercial and government developers have been increasingly using a new approach that brings all of the key players together at the beginning of a construction project. It’s called Design-Build. In this scenario, the architect, engineer and general contractor work together with you, the client, from the outset to come up with the best plan to construct an attractive building on schedule and within budget.
With all of the key players working together at the design and planning stages, nearly all of the kinks can be worked out at the conference table. Just as importantly, clients who take the design-build route pass on most of the financial risk to the design-build team.
Jeff Beard, executive director of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), defines the business arrangement this way: “It is a project delivery system from an entity providing both design and construction services, who is at risk for cost, schedule, quality and management of the entire process. ”
Adds James Broaddus, president and CEO of the (DBIA), “Like any successful project, a design-build job must be planned, organized, led and executed diligently. Ideally, a single-source accountability clarifies responsibilities and offers enormous potential for improvement in project performance. ”
George Transtrum, owner of Heartland Construction LLC, likes to promote the design-build approach because it can result in the best quality product for the owner’s budget. “Design-build gets the contractor involved from the beginning, and it keeps the owner involved every step of the way,” Transtrum says.
The design-build concept mirrors a similar trend in the corporate world called “team-building.” Key players get together at the beginning of a work project and develop relationships of trust and respect. Egos must be checked at the door to build the best teamwork possible for a successful project.
In a design-build construction project, teamwork develops between you, the project owner, the contractor, engineer and architect. Relationships of trust develop as a project owner sees first-hand that he or she is working with experienced professionals who have the owner’s best interests in mind.
Design-Build is gaining popularity on a national scale
Based on superior performance in the marketplace, design-build projects are gaining popularity in the United States, reaching a level of 35 percent of all major projects in the year 2000. Design-bid-build projects are declining, from a high of 82 percent in 1985 to 54 percent in 2000. The remaining 11 percent of the projects were accomplished with the construction management method. Heartland Construction favors the design-build concept with clients because owner George Transtrum has seen proven results occur in his own projects.
“Probably the biggest thing is to eliminate the potentially adversarial relationship between the architect and the contractor,” he says. “The design-bid-build process is a more cumbersome delivery system. There will be a delay while you bid out the project, and if design problems arise after construction has begun, change orders, leading to more delays and higher costs, can be required. ”
By involving the building contractor in the design phase, flaws can be identified early on and adjusted. Contractors “know very quickly what will work and what will not,” writes Craig Rieks in Design-Build magazine. “Design-Build delivery highlights the wisdom and working knowledge of contractors by bringing their abilities to the planning table, to the field in partnership with design professionals, and to the owners’ confidence in the completed building process. ”
To recap, here is a summary of the benefits of using the design-build concept:
• Singular responsibility: Heartland Construction and its design and engineer partners take full responsibility for project performance. The buck stops here.
• Cost effective: Projects are designed in a candid atmosphere of construction cost and constructability. A cost is assigned to every item in the building, so owners know the budget up-front. No surprises. This process saves money in the long run.
• Time savings: Total project time can be reduced between the transition from design to construction. Downtime for bidding or redesign is eliminated. Critical building products that will take time to order or deliver can be ordered in advance.
• Knowledge of firm cost: Accurate costs can be projected early in the design process after only 10 to 15 percent of the documents are completed. Using the 90/10 rule of thumb, 90 percent of the intellectual investment is made in the first 10 percent of the design phase. Economics, budgets and costs can be established in the early stages as 90 percent of the critical decisions are made.
• High level of quality: From the outset, Heartland’s design-build team makes it clear that the owner’s needs are paramount. The design-build team’s reputation and large amounts of capital are at risk. They must perform to produce a quality product. Those are the rules of the game.
After all, Heartland Construction and its design-engineering partners take pride in their work. “We want our clients to feel good about their experience working with Heartland, and ultimately, we want them to be pleased with the end product,” Transtrum said.
If you have an interest in using the design-build approach for a new commercial building, Heartland can assist clients in putting together the best design-build team for the project. Heartland works with a number of architectural firms on design-build projects, so it can find the best fit for your project.