The Buyer’s Guide to Design-Build Construction

Since construction requires the expertise of several groups, a project can become disjointed without constant communication between all parties. Design-build removes the roadblocks facing the traditional construction process by relying on purposeful collaboration for total project synchronicity.

It mitigates the natural friction between contractors, construction managers, and designers by placing everyone around the same table and encouraging open communication. This improved construction process creates a proactive, client-focused approach that paves the way for creative solutions.

Overall, it is more rewarding and productive than other performance services used in the construction industry. It must work, too, because design-build construction makes up an average of 40% of non-residential construction projects.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s breakdown what design-build is, its streamlined process, and the reasons why it works.

What is Design-Build Construction?

Design-build is a construction delivery method that combines design and construction functions as a single contractual entity. This system provides owners with a single point of contact for both the design and construction phases of a project. This entity, or design-builder, holds singular responsibility and contractual risk for every aspect of the project, including:

  • Estimation
  • Assessments
  • Pre-construction
  • Architecture
  • Design Schematics
  • Engineering
  • Subcontracting
  • Construction
  • Post-construction

The design-builder is also responsible for managing all contracts formed with owners and sub-contracting companies, such as electricians, plumbers, equipment vendors, materials providers, etc.

Design-Build Vs. Traditional Construction

Like general contracting and construction management, traditional construction methods often rely on a multi-source approach with owners acting as a liaison between different parties. For instance, owners will contract with an architecture firm for structural design, a contractor for general construction, and sub-contractors for specialty systems.

The owner must manage all separate contractors, acting as a middleman to settle disputes and improve communication. The separate communication often leads to cost disputes, project delays, design issues, and other unforeseen problems.

On the other hand, the design-build approach unifies all contracted parties into a single entity. Owners manage one contract and work with a single point of contact. That entity is solely responsible for the project. They enable total transparency and regular communication with designers, contractors, sub-contractors, and other consultants.

Design-build allows the project team to provide insights into the costs and constructability of different designs throughout the project’s lifetime. This improved design process results in a sound design, a strict budget, and a streamlined schedule. It ensures that the project meets its goals and that the owner is satisfied during and after project completion.

The Design-Build Process

The standard design-build process involves five phases. These phases often overlap but are crucial steps in the construction process. While other construction methods often consist of several steps performed by separate entities, and upon completion of the previous, design-build is much more fluid. Each member of the design-build team can work together during various phases to move things along more quickly and smoothly.

The five design-build phases include:

Team Selection

The first step in design-build is selecting your design-builder. Owners carefully evaluate potential teams, choosing the design-builder who will offer the most value. The best candidate for a design-build team is the entity that meets your needs, budget, and vision. It would help if you also looked for design-builders with extensive experience and credentials and who can work within your budget.

Avoid using cost as the main factor in selecting your design-builder selection. Instead, look for those teams who ensure the greatest value by evaluating budget solutions early in the design process and by creating continuous price estimates as the design progresses.

While it may be tempting to choose the team that estimates at the lowest price, your best option is working with a qualified design-builder that has the skills to deliver the result you seek.

Pre-Construction 

The pre-construction phase is an integral part of the design-build process. It includes thoroughly assessing the project from a business and financial standpoint to discuss the owner’s vision.

After establishing project goals, the design team and contractors will gather critical information. Some of the project data found during this juncture include assessing the job site, structural integrity, building systems, finishes, and more. These assessments define what construction plans will meet codes, compliance requirements, topography, environment regulations, and on-site resources. 

Once your design-builder has all the necessary information, your project team can work with you to identify the design and construction plan that will ensure you meet your defined goals. It will also help clearly define solutions for your meeting estimated budgets, timeline, and project scope.

Architectural Design

At this point, your design-build team can begin working on the architectural design strategy, if they haven’t already. All team members will collaborate to create a design and any necessary design solutions.  

Your design-builders will also thoroughly assess the design for cost savings and optimized productivity while meeting functional requirements and style preferences. The team will present you with preliminary drawing and pricing estimates to establish a final design. Additionally, the design-builder will set a project schedule, as well as all project expectations.

Construction

Once the design is finalized, the design-build team will start construction. Since the design-build process streamlines communication, project timelines may speed up considerably. Owners rely on a single-source for all communication, removing any hindrances that typically face construction projects. This process also increases collaboration and establishes accountability, keeping workers on the same page throughout the construction phase.

Post-Construction

After completing the project, the design-build team will provide all project deliverables and various O&M training materials for appropriate personnel. Since all of this work will be performed by a single entity, the post-construction process is relatively easy with designers and contractors working together.

The Design-Build Advantage

 Using a design-build process offers various advantages to any owner. Some of the most notable advantages are fast project delivery, streamlined communication, cost savings, and collaborative solutions.

Faster Project Delivery

 Design-build offers faster project delivery because each phase of design and construction may happen concurrently. It also relies on total communication between all parties, holding everyone accountable for getting their work done. All in all, the design-build method turns complex timeframes into fast project deliveries, using a simplified construction process.

Streamlined Communication

 The design-build construction process facilitates simplified communication systems. All team members, including the owner, stay on the same page because everyone works under one contract. Owners stay updated with relevant project information sent from the design-builder, resulting in higher quality projects for satisfied project owners.

Cost Savings

Design-build’s efficient construction process often reduces construction costs. In the end, design-build pays dividends by prudently using materials and discovering opportunity savings throughout design and construction phases. The faster timeline may also alleviate costs thanks to reduced labor costs.

Collaborative Solutions 

Bringing the design-build team together allows for additional collaboration that exceeds project expectations. When challenges come up, teams will work together to create innovative solutions quickly. More than that, these solutions will be an effort that the entire group agrees on and will quickly adjust to, rather than one that sidelines the project for weeks on end. Instead, every team member will roll up their sleeves, working on a solution together.

Design-Build Services at Bodell Construction

Working throughout the United States, Bodell Construction provides design-build contracting services from our corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. As the single point-of-contact, Bodell Construction takes responsibility for it all, including Value Engineering services.

We ensure complete project delivery, including the design and construction phases of a project, by leveraging our relationships with some of the best design professionals in the industry, including architects and engineers, as well as major equipment and system vendors.

Trust Bodell Construction to take your project from vision through completion. Request a bid today.