Design-Build Construction: What You Need To Know

Cost overruns. Finger-pointing. Miscommunications and missed deadlines. If asked to name the most common challenges in construction projects, it’s likely that project owners and managers would have similar lists to the above — just as a start.

Design-build construction has become one of the most frequently used construction approaches in recent years, in no small part because of the degree to which this method helps to overcome the issues described above, and more. Once considered implicit, unavoidable components of the construction process, those problems can largely become a thing of the past due to the nature of design-build construction.

In this article, we will examine what design-build construction is, how it works and how it delivers its benefits.

What Is Design-Build Construction?

Design-build construction relies on a single entity — the design-builder — for all aspects of a project. Unlike the once-typical design-bid-build approach, design-build centralizes responsibility for design and construction under one roof.

This approach benefits the project owner because he or she is no longer responsible for identifying contractors once a design is completed. By working with a design-builder, the owner gains the benefit of a de facto project manager for the entire project, not just one aspect of it.

The design-builder also gains efficiencies in process, particularly in the build aspects, and is able to deliver a more successful result to a happier customer.

What Is the Design-Build Process?

Once the project owner has identified the design-builder to work with, the process kicks off. While a largely linear process by necessity, design-build introduces time efficiencies by overlapping stages of the development and construction processes. Whereas steps in approaches like design-bid-build occur linearly and in isolation from one another, design-build introduces unprecedented collaboration and communication among all members of the team to quickly deliver a higher-quality result.

Design-build generally follows the following process:

  1. Preliminary assessments
  2. Design
  3. Construction
  4. Post-construction

While design-build does not eliminate the need for sub-contractors, sub-consultants and other additional personnel often introduced throughout a construction project, it does shift the responsibility for locating and managing those resources from the project owner to the design-builder. This shift can vastly reduce the management burden on the project owner throughout the project.

Benefits of Design-Build

By coordinating personnel, keeping processes under one roof (or, more accurately, in one workstream, since a number of firms and sub providers may still be used) and enabling more effective communication between teams and roles, design-build can help save time and money in a project. How? See below for just a few examples:

  • Architects can communicate directly with engineers — and can even sit at the same table as them — to ensure that a given design is the right choice for the realities of the project.
  • All members of the team — project owner, project manager, architects, engineers and any others — participate in initial planning and assessment stages, reducing or eliminating communication issues later in the project.
  • All members of the team understand the project owner’s objectives, vision and requirements from the outset.
  • The entire team understands where the project is starting, and where it needs to be. In other words, all personnel involved are knowledgeable about the initial state of a work site, a structure or anything else involved in the project, and all of those personnel can provide input into how the initial state will affect the work process and the end result.
  • The collaborative, open nature of design-build means that cost assessments can often drop over the course of the project as efficiencies are identified and created.

That final point informs one of the primary benefits and considerations in choosing a design-build partner: A design-build framework enables a true overall value assessment in the quoting process, not simply a list of standard material and labor costs bearing little relation to the actual project itself. It is intended simply to deliver the lowest upfront price, as becomes evident with the cost overruns that almost always occur in design-bid-build projects.

Design-build takes that headache, and so many others, out of the equation, delivering a smooth experience and a higher-quality, more satisfactory end result, illustrating why this approach has become such a popular choice today.

Author bio:- Jocelyn Brucker is Corporate Marketing and Communications Manager for The Weitz Company — a full-service construction company, general contractor, design-builder and construction manager with office locations throughout the United States. She has been with The Weitz Company since 2020 and specializes in communications, marketing and proposal management.

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