It took me two bailouts by the same general contractor to wake up to the fact that contractors are not the bad guys and that change notices, delay claims and confrontational relationships are the result of the traditional design-bid-build game that we force contractors to play. How can it make sense to spend 5% to 10% of a project budget on designing a building without input from knowledgeable contractors that have better cost control, value engineering and knowledge of building construction than most design teams?
Separation of design and build functions are not standard in other industries and do not appear to make any sense for building construction projects. According to a recent book, “The Architects Guide to Design – Build Services” by the American Institute of Architects, the separation of the design and build phases of construction can be attributed to some of the founding principles of the AIA institute. In the early 1900’s, the AIA decided to enhance the value and status of the architect and a new process was developed. The resulting design-bid-build project delivery method and has become the most common form of project delivery in the commercial and institutional building market.
Another important driving force for the adoption of the design-bid-build method has been the perception that price is the only fair and defendable measure for awarding contracts. When it comes to spending taxpayer’s dollars, most government departments are reluctant to adopt a process subject to qualitative measurements and scrutiny by the public, unsuccessful contractors and the media.
Once it is acknowledged that reputable contractors are just as important as designers for delivering successful projects, and that a fair selection system can be established, then the only remaining step is to adopt a better process. Based upon experience on the traditional method verse design and build processes, the rewards for selecting the best team far out way the risks of dealing with a low price contractor.
Assuming that you agree in principle that performance optimization is the goal for Advanced Building Design projects, I am going to propose that Design-Build-LEED-Cx is a much better process for delivering advanced building design projects.
The Design and Build component has several project delivery improvements versus construction management and the traditional design-tender-build methods that justify changing to this more collaborative design-build approach.
An independent study conducted by Penn State University reported design-build projects could be produced in less time, with better quality and for less cost than other forms of project delivery.
The Design and Build market has the free market as its check and balance. In the long term, free markets reward honest and ethical business practices.
The design and build approach is a more cooperative and a less adversarial approach. It helps to eliminate the change order game; the game where Architects and Contractors strive to protect themselves from liability often at the expense of the client. .
The reason design-build continues to grow is because Owners enjoy the benefit of a single source contract, faster scheduling, reduced change orders and reduced exposure to legal action. The aircraft, automobile, home building and computer industries all use design and build, why should commercial building construction be any different? In 2002, 40 % of all building projects were design and build and this percentage is growing.
The fact is most clients are concerned first about cost and schedule and then about design. Simply put, contractors have greater credibility when it comes to managing costs and schedules.
Managing Building Quality and Performance
For defining the quality of the indoor environment, building and environmental performance requirements, there are sustainable project management system like LEED that can provide guideance for the team. The LEED point rating system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provides a comprehensive checklist for addressing building performance issues that should be of most concern to building owners (i.e. good indoor environmental quality, productivity, financial and environmental performance).
Another important aspect of delivering a successful project is to include Commissioning to ensure that all systems are performing as intended while they are still the responsibility of the team. The commissioning process provides the continuity link between the design-build-operate and lessons learned stages of a project. The building’s operators participate in the process so that they are adequately trained on the design and operation of building system and gain the knowledge to optimize the operation of building systems.
In an age of value added partnerships, the design and construction industry seems to be glued to an ineffective project delivery system that is not taking full advantage of the skills and capabilities of the contracting industry. The alternative, the design-build process, respects the expertise of all players in the design and construction industry in a more ethical manner and produces a better product at less cost.
For those of you that have not discovered the benefits of design build, it is time to take a lesson from our forefathers and revert back the master craftsman approach (Design & Build) process where the design team and builder work hand in hand as an integrated team with the common goal of delivering a best value product.