Part 5: Is Design Build the Right Project Delivery Method for You?
This is part five of a six-part series on Project Delivery Methods. We want to provide you with the information you need to make good decisions for your project. Throughout this series, we'll cover the project delivery method, choosing your team, and the contracts you need.
With Design-Build, the client hires a contractor to design and build their project. This method has been growing in popularity because it saves clients time as they do not need an architect or structural engineer on staff; however, this means there is less control over budgeting for changes during construction.
Your Project Team
The organization of the Design-Build Project is fundamentally different from the organization of other project delivery methods we have covered.
Side note: With the Design-Build, the phases are also different.
Design-Build begins with a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) phase, followed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) phase, a Design Competition phase, and finally, the Construction phase.
Timeline and Engagement of the Design Team and the Construction Team
The owner is contracted with a Design-Builder. Additionally, the owner may have an owner advisor on board. The lump sum GMP or a target cost is established at the end of the proposal request and before design competition even begins.
The Design-Builder encompasses and is under their umbrella, the architect, the engineers, and specialty consultants on the design side of the project. They also have the contractors and the subcontractors, all within one contract. With the Design-Builder, the architect and the contractor are brought on at the end of the RFQ phase.
What are the key attributes of Design-Build?
It is an integrated process with overlapping design and construction phases. This is typically fast-tracked to make this the fastest of the project delivery methods.
There is one contract between the owner to the Design-Builder with one point of accountability.
The Design-Builder is then responsible for managing both the design and construction of the project. The owner should hire an owner advisor to assist the owner in working with the Design-Builder, if the owner does not have those skills in-house. The Design-Builder enters into those contracts with the contractors and the architects hold those contracts and manage them.
All three of the project delivery methods we've previously talked about, it warrants the sufficiency of the plans and the specifications to the contractor. In all three of the project delivery methods that we talked about previously in parts two through four, that was the owner warranting the sufficiency of the plans and the specs.
The Design-Builder warrants that. The Design-Builder may be a developer. They could be a single-purpose entity, meaning they have in-house design and construction. They could be an architect-led organization. They could also be a contractor-led organization, which is, most often the case.
Contracts and the Contractual Relationship
The owner, just as in all project delivery methods, has owner-directed consultants with whom they hold contracts.
The owner then has a single contract with a Design-Builder who has contracts with contractors. Then those contractors have subcontracted with subcontractors, and the architect has contracts with their consultants and the engineers and specialty consultants on the project. So all of that contractual relationship really rolls up under the Design-Builder.
Best Value Design-Build vs. Progressive Design-Build
Two-Step Selection Process
If you're considering the Design-Build delivery method, it's important to know the difference between Best Value Design-Build and Progressive Design-Build:
This is a two-step selection process.
The best value is the qualification step, where they down-select to three of the most highly qualified Design-Build teams
At issuance of the request for proposals and the development of proposals in alignment with the request for proposals. The price on the Best Value project is fixed at the issuance of the requests for proposals and selection is based on the amount of prioritized scope and offer can provide rather than price. Design is typically about 30% to 35% complete at the end of the proposal phase when a team is selected. With Best Value, you are looking to choose the best team with the best proposal.
The Progressive Design-Build Is a one-step selection process. The selection is qualifications-based. The design is at 0% complete at that point in time because you're qualifications-based and you work with that Design-Build team to advance the design to approximately 60%. Costs are, at that point in time, locked in. So under Progressive, your job is to pick the best team. So Best Value, choose the best team with the best proposal. Progressive Design-Build, pick the best team.
Bridging documents are drawings that are produced by an owner advisor or an owner advisor team, or an architect brought on early in the process to provide a schematic layout of the building and really advance design somewhere between 10% to 30%. Bridging documents is not a Design-Build done right best practice, and if they are used, it transfers risk right back onto the owner.
You remember in Design-Bid-Build and the Construction Management at Risk and Construction Management Advisor Project delivery methods, if you recall, the owner warrants the sufficiency of the plans and specs under those project delivery methods. So anything you draw or is drawn on your behalf that is outside the Design-Build team transfers that warranty of sufficiency back to you.
Things to Consider w/ Design-Build
With regard to owner involvement, it requires the owners to make a mental shift and embrace and adopt the Design-Build done right best practices. It is a highly collaborative process, including the owner at all stages of the project. But the owner's role is to make sure that the design is progressing in accordance with the request for proposals and the performance criteria that were established for the project.
One contract equals one single point of accountability. It results in a partnering environment and reduced conflict on your project team. With regard to cost control, that cost is controlled either at the time of the issuance of the RFP as in a best value case or at about 60% on a Design-Build Progressive project. I mentioned it earlier, but with regard to schedule, these are the fastest ways to get your project out of the ground and build. So they're typically faster than everything else out there.
The owner has transferred all of the risks, or at least a very substantial portion of them, to the Design-Builder, and the owner assumes the risk for bridging documents if you choose to use those.
Is Design-Build the right delivery method for you?
What factors should you consider when trying to differentiate delivery systems?
There are five areas that we like to look at:
Owner Involvement. Design-Build requires that owners make a mental shift and adopt the Design-Build-done-right best practices. It’s a very highly collaborative process, and it includes the owner at all stages of the project. However, the owner's role is to make sure that the design is progressing in accordance with the request for proposals and the performance criteria that were established for the project.
Accountability. One contract equals one single point of accountability. It results in a partnering environment and a reduced conflict on the project team.
Cost control. Cost is controlled either at the time of the issuance of the RFP in a Best Value project, or at about 60% on a Progressive project.
Timeline. Design-Build is the fastest way to get your project out of the ground and built. So they're typically faster than everything else out there.
Risk assignment. The owner has transferred all of the risks, or at least a very substantial portion of it, to the Design-Builder. The owner assumes the risk for bridging documents if they choose to use those.
Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about whether this delivery method is right for your project.