The Design-Build Project Delivery Process – Architect Led

Whenever possible, we encourage our clients to strongly consider the Design / Build process for project delivery.  In our office, the Design / Build process has consistently proven to deliver projects in the shortest amount of time while providing the owner with the most “bang for the buck” in project design.  The key to successful Design / Build is involving the owner, architect, engineers, and the general contractor on the front end of the project.

At EVstudio, a typical Design / Build project usually looks something like this…

Design – The owner hires EVstudio to design the project.  The principal or project architect will immediately ask the owner if he has an existing relationship with a general contractor to build the project.  If not, EVstudio will recommend two or three qualified general contractors to provide pre-construction services for the project and then assist the owner in choosing the one the owner deems most qualified and compatible with the project .  A pre-construction services agreement provides a way for the general contractor to participate in the design process of the project from the very beginning, thus incorporating the general contractor’s experience, knowledge, expertise, and relationships with sub-contractors and suppliers as early as possible into the project.  A pre-construction services agreement is separate from the agreement for construction services and in no way obligates the owner to hire the general contractor for the construction of the project.  If the owner is dissatisfied with the performance of the general contractor during the design process there is always an “out” prior to awarding a contract for construction.

The pre-construction services agreement allows the general contractor to work directly with the owner and EVstudio during project design providing “real time” feedback on cost consequences of design decisions based on current market conditions.  The general contractor will “pre-bid” major components and systems of the project during the design process and offer advice regarding alternatives that may provide comparable performance at a lower cost.  The general contractor can also provide valuable information on the constructability and predicted performance of numerous construction details based on experience and knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of available sub-contractors.  By actively participating in the design of the project, the general contractor has the opportunity to familiarize himself with all the details of the project well before construction starts.  This allows the general contractor to identify the critical path of the project, prepare a proactive construction schedule, and possibly even pre-order long lead time items while still in the design process.  Most of all, the general contractor is able to work directly with the owner, architect, and the in-house engineers to assure the project is designed to its maximum potential in regards to the project budget.  All of the bidding for the project is completed during the design process and value engineering decisions are immediately made based on current market conditions.

Because bidding, value engineering, and design happen simultaneously, a fixed cost for the construction of the project can be determined at the same time the design of the project is completed.  This allows the owner to immediately enter into an agreement for the construction of the project with the general contractor.  There is no need to endure the lengthy, post-design, bid process as described in Design / Bid / Build scenarios.

Build – The project goes directly from design into construction.  Construction starts while the project is fresh on everyone’s mind.  This makes it easier for the architect, engineers, and general contractor to remember why design decisions were made.  The architect, engineers, and general contractor have an existing, well established working relationship that was formed during design and immediately carried over into construction.  Ultimately, there are fewer requests for information, change orders, and overall conflicts during construction.

Summary to Design / Build – Design / Build (in many different variations) is quickly becoming the delivery method of choice for a wide variety of project types.  From the simplest single family residential projects, to the most complex commercial projects, Design / Build has proven to be a reliable way to fast track projects and achieve maximum value for project owners.  Because the process allows multiple tasks to run simultaneously, instead of sequentially, it gets projects out of design and under construction quicker.  Because the project team has been working together since the beginning of design, communication during construction is more efficient.  Because the general contractor has been involved in the design process, he is less likely to encounter unanticipated problems with the project during construction.  Finally, because the project was bid during the design process, design decisions are made based on actual, current, market conditions, thus allowing maximum opportunity to meet project budget with the best possible design for the project.

Design / Build has proven to increase project value and decrease overall delivery time so effectively that the Federal Government, and many State and Local Governments have started using it for project procurement.  The AIA has recognized the rising popularity of this delivery method by introducing new contract documents to support Design / Build projects.


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