Over the years, commercial, industrial, and residential contractors have been focused on finding more effective project delivery methods in an effort to complete projects faster and keep costs low. Design-build construction is one of the best examples.
What’s the Difference?
Traditionally, the construction process involved three steps. First, a designer is hired a plan for the project. The construction manager then solicits bids from builders. Each party works on its own part of the equation without much contact with the others, and there is no contractual relationship between the design firm and the construction contractor.
With design build services, things work a little differently. With this project delivery method, all of the services are brought under one roof. The same company that creates the design is also responsible for bringing it to fruition.
Why It Works
Design-build contractors are getting a larger share of non-residential jobs every year, with experts predicting that it will account for $400 billion worth of the construction work performed in the US by 2025. There are good reasons for this trend. The benefits of this project delivery method are built right into its structure. Design-build companies can offer a wealth of benefits to clients, including:
Traditional design-bid-build methodologies create abundant opportunities for communication breakdowns. Even if both parties are committed to collaboration, design teams must send external communications to contractors, and vice versa. Once subcontractors start getting involved, communication can get even more complicated, leading to unnecessary delays.
With design-build construction firms, everything happens under one roof. Everyone reports to the same project manager, which streamlines communication, prevents unnecessary delays, and ensures that projects can be completed on time.
Because everything is under one roof, there’s also less chance of conflict arising during the design-build process than there is under traditional project delivery methods. Design-build companies have clear hierarchies in place and everyone knows their responsibilities.
When working with a design-bid-build model, designers and builders often find themselves at odds with each other over key aspects of project completion. The fact that each takes ownership of only part of the project creates conflicts of interest and prevents the whole team from sharing a single, unified vision. These problems are eliminated with design-build construction.
Design-build companies don’t sacrifice expertise in one field for another. Instead, they have teams of industry leaders who are committed to working together to ensure that each stage of the project moves forward smoothly.
The best part is that when designers and builders work together under one roof, they get the chance to see how the other team works. Developing working relationships that facilitate collaboration allows for mutual respect and a healthier mindset that prioritizes moving the project ahead with everyone on board instead of the push and pull that has become standard with design-bi-build models.
Sharing accountability with another firm can lead to discrepancies in costs and expectations. As a result, designers may predict quotes or completion dates that are completely out of line with what builders end up quoting. There is little collaboration between the two parties during the earliest stages of the project, which leads to trouble down the line.
When one organization takes full accountability for project completion, the company has not just the means but also the motivation to pay close attention to budgets, timelines, and other factors that could influence project completion. They can offer more accurate initial quotes so that clients can work out budgets more effectively, and those quotes often reflect lower prices than those associated with traditional business models.
Added Benefits for Custom Project Completion
Businesses that don’t mind prototypical designs have less trouble with design-bid-build project models. Retailers that want to keep branding, and thus building design, consistent across multiple locations, for example, already have design plans in place. They might not benefit as much from working with design-build contractors.
For those that need custom work done, design-build is always the best option. The project owner will work closely with not just the designers but also the construction team to ensure that everything reflects the organization’s exact needs with far less back-and-forth than would be required when working with two separate entities. Common examples of custom projects that are best completed using design-build methodologies include:
- Public buildings
What’s even better is that large-scale, custom projects can be completed much faster using design-build methodologies than traditional methods, saving project owners money in addition to headaches.
What to Look for in a Contractor
Design-build construction is supposed to improve efficiency, cut costs, and help to ensure that every aspect of the project comes out exactly as intended. However, project owners can only reap these benefits if they work with the right contractors. When choosing who to work with, look for essential qualifications such as:
- Strong managerial skills.
- Effective communication.
- Commitment to site quality control.
- A solid portfolio.
- Relevant experience.
- The right industry contacts.
- A stable history and strong reputation.
- Clean safety records.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, request references, or ask to look at the company’s portfolio. Clients need to have a good idea of what to expect when they sign on the dotted line. They should ask about points of contact, communication protocols, and access to specialists, and follow up on references to find out whether the company has a history of going substantially over budget or behind schedule.
Start the Search for the Right Contractor
Even if a project has a tight timeline, there’s no sense in rushing the process of choosing a design-build contractor. Remember, this company is the one that project owners will be working with throughout the entire construction process and will be taking full accountability for the project’s completion. Taking the time to find a design-build contractor with a strong portfolio and a lot of experience working with similar clients can help to avoid unnecessary delays later down the line and ensure that the completed project comes out exactly as intended, no matter how complex it is.