Owners, developers, and even local, state, and federal governments are taking advantage of a number of new project delivery methods for their engineering and architecture projects. The designbuild approach is one such delivery method that continues to gain popularity. Given the right circumstances, design-build can result in cost and time savings for the owner, fewer change orders, greater assurance in constructability, and the designbuild team’s accepting greater responsibility for the project.

Traditionally, construction projects have been procured under the design-bid-build project delivery method. In this scenario, the client enters into a contract with a design firm to design the project. Following design, contractors submit their costs for constructing the project, and the client enters into a second contract with a construction company. The contractor then begins construction on the project based on the design. Thus, design, bid, build. This is still one of the most common project delivery methods around.

Under a design-build contract, the owner enters into a single agreement with a total project team which includes both a design team and construction team under the same contract umbrella. These design-build teams often have a history of working together in similar partnerships, and present themselves as a unified project team offering a single source for project design and construction.

Under the right scenario, the design-build approach can offer several benefits to owners. Design-build allows the design team and the contractor to work together simultaneously, ensuring that the needs and goals of the client are being met from both a design and construction standpoint. The design and construction team can review plans early on in the design process to validate that the design is the best solution and is easily constructable. This also allows for ‘value engineering’ to occur early in the process, in which the teams provide checks and balances to each other, offering potentially less costly design/construction alternatives.

With the design and contract teams working in tandem, any design issues are more quickly addressed as the project progresses. Such early teamwork can help to reduce change orders, as such issues are identified and corrected during the design, whereas under traditional design-bid-build contracts, the design is essentially complete by the time contractors bid on the project.

Under the design-build approach, the design-build team assumes more responsibility for the project. The project team presents the owner with complete plans, including contractor input. Under design-bid-build, the designer presents the completed plans to the owner, who then assumes the responsibility for those plans being complete and accurate during the bidding process.

Design-build projects are especially well-suited for projects which need to be completed on a fast-track basis. The team is able to reduce construction time, as challenges are identified early and resolved. Continual communication between the design-build team and owner also aids in timely project completion. In addition, design-build can allow for construction to begin as the design phases are completed.

There are also a number of variations to the design-build model, such as the design and construction team entering into separate contracts with the owner, which allows the owner more control over the project. While design-build is becoming a popular project delivery method, it may or may not be the best fit for every project. Owners should evaluate the benefits of each project delivery method and determine which works best for their particular project. IBI