Contracting for a new commercial, industrial, or government facility is complex. With dozens of subcontractors, reams of regulations and codes, and a mountain of logistics to oversee, the traditional design-bid-build cycle for large construction is becoming harder and harder for organizations to manage.

With the increasing weight of regulatory requirements, the complexity of construction and materials, and costs for the workforce, traditional construction can be an impossibly heavy lift, especially for smaller organizations. That’s where the benefits of design-build construction come into play.

What is design-build? In this article, we’ll look at the differences between traditional and design-build construction cycles and how using the latter can save you time, money, and considerable stress as you proceed with your new construction project.

Traditional Construction

In traditional construction, a project is broken into three distinct phases:

  1. Design: Architects and engineers work together to design detailed plans for the construction of your business.
  2. Bid: You solicit bids from general contractors (GCs) and select the company that best serves your construction needs.
  3. Build: Your GC builds the structure according to the plans provided.

That all seems simple enough, but the basic overview above glosses over some of the potential pitfalls that are almost unavoidable in modern large construction projects:

  • With design and contracting support offered by different firms, you must coordinate communication between the two entities, resolve any disagreements between the designers and contractors, and ensure that the builders correctly execute the designer’s wishes.
  • If anything requires the project to deviate from the plans as provided by the designer, making change orders can become complicated. This again requires you to serve as the go-between, communicating the issues back to the designers and bringing revised plan documents back to the contractor.
  • Quality control often falls to you as the common party between the “design team” and the “construction team.” You will have the difficult task of bringing contractors back into scope should they stray from the designed vision and of corralling designers who may be drawing something no contractor could ever build.
  • Logistics will also fall to you, ensuring that plan documents are kept up to date, that materials selected by the designers are available and choosing acceptable substitutes if they’re not, and other managerial tasks that don’t fall under your normal scope of work.
Construction worker truss installation

Design-Build Construction

If Design-Bid-Build construction is trying to assemble a car from parts secured from dozens of different sources, design-build construction is like paying a dealership and driving off in a new car. When you proceed with a design-build model for your project, you’ll partner with one firm whose design teams and construction teams will work together on your project.

Instead of a design company drafting plans and being more or less finished with the project, the designers in a design-build project are involved until you move into your new facility. And, instead of being handed a set of plans with no input as to their practicality or feasibility, the builders who’ll be turning those plans into reality are part of the discussion from day one.

While there are some situations in which design-bid-build will be the right choice, it’s worth considering the advantages offered by the design-build model:

Design-Build Reduces Contract Complexity

At its simplest, a design-bid-build project will require you to sign two contracts – one with a designer and one with a contractor. In actuality, this is seldom the case, and most owners eventually find themselves managing numerous contracts with designers, general contractors, specific subcontractors, and consultants. When something goes wrong, it’s easy for accountability to get lost in the cracks between these various contracts.

With a design-build project, you’ll sign one contract that covers the design and construction of the entire project, from the initial drawings to the last drop of paint. If something goes wrong, there’s no question of accountability – you can rely on your single contract to provide you with remedies, regardless of the point of failure.

Design-Build Increases Cost Stability

When you sign a design-build contract, you have one bottom-line sum that includes every aspect of the project. If the project goes over budget because of choices made by the contractor, there’s no question of responsibility or where the overruns should be taken out. If a design or construction error, oversight, or change that isn’t your fault causes an overrun, the contractor must make it right.

Design-Build Offers Simplified Communication

When managing a traditional construction project, you’ll need to maintain contact with at least two and probably even more groups, each working different hours and offering different levels of responsiveness. When your contractor needs an answer from the designer, it’s on you to make the request and ensure the response gets communicated accurately and effectively.

With a design-build team, you have one point of contact. Design and build teams communicate seamlessly without any intervention. When you need information, there’s no need to go through the round-robin of “That’s not our area” that is so common in design-bid-build projects.

Design-Build Allows Faster Construction

When working through a traditional design-bid-build project, design must be fully completed before construction begins, and any changes that need to happen during the build phase bring work to a stop while the designers and contractors go back and forth in deciding how to resolve the issue.

During a design-build, initial work can begin while designs are still being finalized. With everyone involved on the same team, there’s a continuous open line of communication between the two halves of the project, leading to faster construction and an earlier move-in.

Design-Build Offers Reduced Cost

On average, design-build projects cost between 1% and 6% less than comparable design-bid-build projects. These cost savings are realized in reduced logistics overhead, fewer change orders, and the inherent savings that come when the design team has to concern itself with the same budgetary concerns that impact the construction team.

No Matter How You Structure Your Construction Project, JLJ & Associates Can Get the Job Done

With designers and contractors on hand, our team is experienced in design-bid-build and design-build construction. Call us today at 770-961-7600.

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