Design-Build on the Move

February 10, 2006 · by Harold L. Adams

As recently as two decades ago, less than 10 percent of construction projects were delivered using a design-build approach. Currently, approximately 40 percent of all non-residential construction, both public and private, utilizes an integrated, design-build strategy.

As recently as two decades ago, less than 10 percent of construction projects were delivered using a design-build approach. Currently, approximately 40 percent of all non-residential construction, both public and private, utilizes an integrated, design-build strategy.

The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) estimates that within a decade, over 50 percent of such projects will be completed using design-build delivery.

In some market sectors, design-build project delivery has already reached majority status. Seasoned owners are increasingly recognizing that an integrated approach can be particularly effective when confronted with an especially tight schedule or a very limited budget. A design-build approach provides opportunities for creative, out-of-the-box solutions, often adding
value and quality to the project.

Why is design-build becoming such an attractive option? I would focus on three issues.

High Quality

My experience as an architect convinces me that design-build is often the most effective means to service a client. Our clients expect us to provide high value design, construction, and delivery. They quickly appreciate the non-adversarial approach that is a hallmark of design-build. Our clients have greater confidence in our ability to produce real value when we demonstrate to them that they will be able to rely on a single point of responsibility throughout the course of the project. Every project will have technical challenges and unexpected detours; an integrated team, fully involved from project inception is best equipped to respond to them.

Owner Involvement

I see more and more owners enthusiastic about design-build because it actually gives them a greater role in affecting the development and growth of a project. Unlike the linear, sequential, design-bid-build approach, where the owner is ultimately forced to serve as the arbiter between designer and constructor, a design-build strategy encourages open and transparent working relationships among all parties. Since all key project roles are defined early and reexamined throughout the course of the project, the owner typically has a much more stable and far less contentious relationship with the project team.

Adherence to Budget and Schedule

Every study that has reviewed comparable scope design-bid-build and design-build projects has documented the advantages of an integrated approach. Simply put, design-build typically avoids the time-consuming (and expensive) pattern of change-orders, stop-and-start, that often plagues construction projects. The project is consistently completed within or below budget, at or ahead of schedule. The owner is able to realize a return on investment far more quickly, and with less worry.

A design-build strategy is actually intuitive, if we remove a few cultural blinders. It goes back to the roots of our profession as master builders, when we assumed responsibility for all aspects of design and construction.

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