Everyone knows that complex building projects are prone to delays, disputes and deficiencies, accepting that these are an unfortunate result of the complexity inherent in the design and construction process. However not many people know that there are several approaches available to the way in which projects are delivered and that certain approaches are more prone to process issues than others.
The traditional Design-Bid-Build approach has the owner procure the services of an architect and support engineers who produce the contract documents. Once these documents are completed they are circulated to contractors for competitive bidding and a contract is awarded to the best respondent.
This method has many advantages including the fact that construction (which is the most costly portion of the process) is bid competitively with fully developed documents and therefore allows for a very clear comparison between bids. Also this approach is easy to manage as it is universally understood.
The downside of this approach is that the design process forgoes the positive input contractors can have on the project. Also it is virtually impossible to cover off all eventualities in the bid documents which often leads to multiple change orders that add cost or delay the project.
There is another very different approach that avoids most problems inherent in the Design-Bid-Build process. It is known as Design-Build. Here the one company is hired to design and build the project. In fact they can be a single company with in-house design and construction capabilities, or multiple companies who work together under one contract to the owner under the leadership of the design builder. Either way what differentiates the Design-Build process is that the owner contracts with one entity who complete all aspects of the project for them.
Advantages of Design-Build
Design-Build offers numerous advantages over the traditional Design-Bid-Build project delivery model. The advantages include:
- Shortened Project Duration due to the fact that construction work can begin before the design and documentation process commences. Since the total project price is fixed the base building systems such as the foundations and the superstructure can be constructed while the fine details are still being finalized.
- Only none party is responsible for the project and answers to the owner. Is is in contrast to the usual issues associated with traditional projects where designers and contractors often point fingers at each other whenever issues are not fully resolved.
- No grounds for extras due to the fact that the overall project cost is fixed from the outset. An exception to this is when owners opt to request project changes after the initial scope is defined and agreed upon.
- Clear and established communication between the designers and the constructors are also an important feature of Design-Build.
Types of Design-Build Arrangements
There are three main types of Design-Build arrangements. These include:
- Contractor led Design-Build, where the contractor enters into a contract with the owner and retains the services of the Architect and other design consultants.
- Project manager led Design-Build, where a separate project management Design-Build entity is hired to complete the project. This entity will in turn retain the services of contractors, the Architect and the design consultants.
- Architect or consultant led Design-Build where the architect is hired to complete the full project and is retains the services of contractors.
Should you hire a Design-Builder for your project?
There are potential pitfalls associated with the Design-Build approach. These include the loss of certain controls that are present in traditional delivery models. For example, where design consultants are retained separately, their focus remains on assuring that construction complies with the design. Also the owner may lose some influence over the design as the designers will tend to work toward the global budget agreed upon in the initial contract.
Ultimately the decision to pursue the Design-Build approach usually rests on the advantages. Most large scale commercial, institutional and government projects are either Design-Build or some sort of hybrid derivative. The biggest benefit is the collaborative input of all project team members during the design process. Also including contractors in early phases where key decisions are made gains their buy-in and reduces the potential for problems during construction.
The Canadian Construction Document Committee has developed a set of standard industry contracts which enable the Design-Build approach in Canada. They have produced contract documents specifically suited to Design-Build projects in Canada. The following information is taken directly from the CCDC website:
CCDC 14 – 2013 Design-Build Stipulated Price Contract Standard prime contract between Owner and Design-Builder where the Design-Builder performs Design Services and Construction under one agreement, for a single, pre-determined stipulated or fixed price.
CCDC 15 – 2013 Design Services Contract between Design-Builder and Consultant Standard contract between Design-Builder and Consultant to perform the design services required under a design-build contract between Owner and Design-Builder.