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What is Design–Build?

Design–build is a project delivery system used in the construction and development industry. It is a method used to deliver a project in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design–builder or design–build contractor. Design–build is the fastest growing and most popular method used to deliver construction projects due to the integrated performance driven framework. It can be subdivided into Architect–Led Design–Build (ALDB) and Contractor–Led Design–Build (CLDB) contracts. Design–build offers the most collaborative and efficient method of completing a construction project which leverages the strengths of single-source planning, design, and construction expertise. Design–build allows the builder to bring a greater level of accountability, value, and control to your project from conception to conclusion. In contrast to design–bid–build, design–build relies on a single point of responsibility and accountability for the project owner and is used to minimize the overall risks for the project owner while reducing the delivery schedule by overlapping the design–bid–build phases of the project. In contrast to design–build the traditional design–bid–build approach for construction projects consists of the appointment of an architect or draftsman on one side, and the appointment of a contractor on the other side. The design–build procurement route changes the traditional sequence of work while eliminating a few steps. It also often answers the client's wishes for a single point contact in an attempt to reduce risks along with overall costs and time while integrating processes.

Design Build

Design–build is sometimes compared to the "Master Builder" approach, one of the oldest forms of construction procedure. Comparing design–build to the traditional method of procurement, the authors of Design-Build Contracting Handbook noted that: “from a historical perspective the so-called traditional approach is actually a very recent concept, only being in use approximately 150 years. In contrast, the design–build concept—also known as the "Master Builder" concept—has been reported as being in use for over four millennia." There are typically three key component members who should be part of your upcoming project team: the architect or draftsman, the designer, and the builder. A construction project has the highest likelihood for success when all three of these individuals work together on the same team, toward the same vision, with a clear comprehension of budget and schedule from the beginning through a single point of contact. This often reduces the funnel of project related stresses for the project owner and optimizes the creative experience.


How Are Projects Commonly Constructed?

Most projects are started in a disjointed construction process known as design–bid–build. The process starts when the project owner contracts directly with an architect or draftsman to draw the project plans with no comprehension of market rates for subcontract vendors or building materials in the local construction build jurisdiction. After the plans are drawn, the owner contracts separately with a builder or multiple builders to bid the plans engaging in what is known as the “competitive-bid-process” where apples are never apples to apples which exposes the project owner to bait and switch sales tactics. The project owner may also then sign yet another contract with an independent designer if he or she chooses to have one involved to further design selections and details. 

The project owner, by default, becomes the single point of contact bearing all stresses and responsibilities for coordinating the work, bids, and changes of the architect, designer, and builder(s). When a project is designed, bid, and built in multiple phases by multiple individuals, it’s very difficult to ensure that everyone adheres to the project budget and is working toward the same project vision. This all too often leaves the project unbuildable due to unforeseen costs after months of investment.

St Pete Design Build

Without clear direction and management by an experienced builder in the local jurisdiction, the architect may design a project that looks incredible in the ethereal realm of renderings but can’t actually be built within the budget. A designer with no established budget or allowance framework as a reference point will easily over design every aspect of a project and a builder without a designer will defer to the client to make all color and style decisions, resulting in an overwhelmed client and an often underwhelming finished product. It really takes all three professionals working toward the same goal to create a project that is well designed and can be built on schedule and within budget. Without a team leader keeping everyone working toward the same goal from the start as a design–build team, the chances for a successful project all too often diminish greatly.

Issues With Design–Bid–Build

Unfortunately, problems always occur when the builder prepares a proposal for a set of plans that they didn’t design or that they weren’t properly integrated into the design process for. What are the specifications? What level of finishes should be included in the budget? What do you want here? What do you want there? What about this? What about that? Since the builder wasn’t involved in the initial planning and design meetings, they really don't have a thorough understanding of the client’s needs, wants, or expectations, and it can often be very difficult for them to accurately estimate the true cost of construction without making some assumptions that may or may not be in line with the finished product the client is expecting. The builder in turn always ends up using allowances for unknown items, such as fixtures, tile, cabinetry, appliances, trim, etc. (Read these two articles to see what you should know about allowances and bait and switch builders.) so when the builder presents the project proposal, it often ends up way over the client’s budget and or way under the clients aesthetic expectations leaving the client with the potential financial distress of change order after change order reconciliation throughout the construction process if they were to proceed as is.

At this point of proposal review the client must then re-engage the architect or draftsman to change the design (which takes time and costs more money) in an attempt to reduce the overall budget. Weeks go by, sometimes even months, and then the builder must then re-bid the revised plans and specifications based on the current market rates (which takes time and costs more money) propelling the Design–Bid–Build–Cycle perpetually. By the end of several months of revisions and additional design costs, the project owner and the builder are often understandably frustrated before the projects construction process even begins.


So Then, You Want to Know More About Design–Build?

Design–build is the construction delivery method that provides owners with a single point of contact for both the design and construction phases of a project. One entity holds single-source responsibility and contractual risk for every aspect of a build—from estimation, assessments and pre-construction to architecture, schematics, engineering, subcontracting, construction and post-construction warranty. This entity, the design–builder, manages all contracts with companies, such as subcontractors, equipment vendors and materials providers. Design–build offers many unique benefits and advantages that other construction methods simply don’t deliver. This is why most of our projects at Shell Basix are contractor led design–build. Some of the biggest benefits of design–build are a more rapid delivery system, better solutions to problems, better communication with less blame shifting and honest budgets with realistic allowances that meet aesthetic expectations. Due to its efficiency, design–build often reduces construction costs and construction schedules for project owners. This may come as a surprise, given that design–build projects lack the hard-dollar and competitive-bid-phase that design–bid–build affords. But building smart and properly engineering from the beginning of the process rather than “value-engineering” to cut costs after design–bid–build budgets are too high pays dividends, reducing hard costs, financing costs, opportunity costs, and emotional distress for all parties involved.

The pre-construction and conception phase of any project is crucial, setting the course for a successful project. This phase includes business and financial assessments, in which your design–builder’s pre-construction staff learn about your vision, budget, schedule, wants, needs, and desires. Concurrently, architects and engineers begin architectural, mechanical and electrical system assessments while reviewing any existing floor plans, fire and smoke preparations, interior room finishes and structural systems. The design teams gather critical information while surveyors and geotechnical engineers perform a field assessment of your project site to ready it for construction. If you’re simply improving your current space, your design–builder will assess your project to identify areas of deficiency and need. These assessments define key parameters such as building codes, compliance requirements, topography, the area’s weather characteristics, usable on-site natural resources and so on.

With all the key information in mind, your project team partners with you to identify the right design and construction processes to help you achieve your goals within your budget and time constraints. The scope of your project is set, and creative solutions can then take conceptual form helping the project owner realize their vision. Next, architectural design begins in earnest and represents the best opportunity to capture value and intended design of the project. After all, architectural design isn’t just about appearance, it’s a blend of form and function where strategy, sustainability, vision, aesthetics, optimization and technology come together as a complete design that should drive your project to its success. In design–build, there’s no need to limit solutions to traditional and sometimes primitive ideas, systems, or formats. The project and the budget are essentially the boss. So teams are only limited by what’s right for the project given the budget. As ideas come to the table, teams work as one unit to analyze them, in full transparency, so owners are assured of getting the best materials, layouts, schedule, design and more. This innovative process makes it possible for owners to see more options, make better-informed decisions and realize an overall better value.

Design Build St Petersburg Florida

The Design-Build Institute of American (DBIA) provided this helpful example that explains how a design-build project works:

“The (Owner) manages only one contract with a single point of responsibility (The Design-Builder). The designer and contractor work together from the beginning, as a team, providing unified project recommendations to fit the Owner’s schedule and budget. Any changes are addressed by the entire team, leading to collaborative problem-solving and innovation, not excuses or blame-shifting. While single-source contracting is the fundamental difference between design-build and the old ways, equally important is the culture of collaboration inherent in design-build.”  www.dbia.org

Thanks to the design–build company’s all-in-one approach, seemingly minor delays that can eventually add up to cause major time delays are much less likely to happen. Your builder never has to wait for the designer or engineer to get back to them about a crucial question that could halt construction temporarily. Since everyone is on the same team, communication delays aren’t as big of an issue. The time-saving benefits of design–build can be significant. In fact, design–build projects are often delivered 102 percent faster than design–bid–build projects, according to the DBIA. 

The traditional design–bid–build approach requires much more work on your part as a project owner so be sure to include the value of your time in your project assessment. You’ll need to check in with the various companies on a regular basis to ensure they’re communicating with each other and that there aren’t any communication issues. If there’s an argument between any of the groups working on your project, you’ll need to step in and serve as a peacemaker. It’s impossible to make a construction project completely stress-free, but design–build does dissolve a lot of developmental issues. This flexibility and nimbleness of a design–build team translates to a more streamlined and efficient project due to quicker design time, fewer mistakes during construction, and an overall better life experience for everyone involved.

If you are considering a new project, you should really consider hiring a design–build firm. Choosing a design–build firm offers many more benefits than working with a traditional builder. You’ll save time, money, and frustration when you opt for the design–build approach. If you’re in the St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, or Sarasota, Florida area and are looking for a design–build firm for your upcoming project, we’d love to meet with you and hear more about your vision. Click here to contact us today.

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