Construction, architecture and building design are not new concepts; they have deep historical roots. Just take a look at the Roman Coliseum, one of the most profound pieces of architecture in history. Of course construction methods continue to evolve and progress in order to provide more efficiency; however, there are still a number of construction methods that derive from the past. One of these is referred to as design-build, a type of project that uses a single source for both the design and construction aspects. This is considered to be one of the most desirable types of contracts for construction because it reduces the risk involved for the project owner. The other popular form of design is referred to as design-bid-build. This method utilizes a number of different contracts to reach the final product. Although both methods are popular, design-build has a myriad of benefits.
In the Phoenix commercial construction industry, design build is considered to be a traditional approach, since this is one of the oldest methods in the field, regardless of which part of the country you’re in. A single contract approach basically puts the entire operation into the hands of a single company. The contractor in charge is responsible for designing the building and constructing it, ultimately preventing many of the scheduling and/or cost issues that sometimes arise with design-bid-build projects. For example, when relying on separate entities for the design and construction phases of a project, a number of delays can occur, such as the design not being ready in time for the desired date for the start of construction, or questions arise when an unclear design on the plans must be clarified with more detail by the architect or engineer, which affects the schedule and many times has cost implications as well. For many project owners, the designbuild method is one that diffuses the amount of stress involved in working with a number of contracts with different companies, as it keeps the origin and completion localized to one contract.
Although a design build contract is typically with the contractor, it is also common to have a design build contract with an architect, or at times, although less common, with an engineer. For many project owners, the design-bid-build method provides the sense of having more control with a means of checks and balances by allowing him or her to follow a sort of chain of command: owner – architect, owner – builder, in which case both the architect and builder report directly to the owner. The engineers in most cases are contracted by the architect as part of his design package. In both types of contracts the process breaks down the same – the architect designs the project and uses engineers to provide the specific details regarding the structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical components; the contractor oversees the construction and builds according to what was designed. With a design-bid-build project, the architect’s responsibilities usually stop at the completion of his design, but for an added fee to the owner, he can oversee the construction to ensure the owner gets what he asked for in the design. This is called “Contract Administration”, and will entail the architect visiting the construction site regularly to inspect the materials, layout and construction methods. With multiple contracts and multiple people reporting to the owner, it is easy to see why this type of construction project can be more complicated and costly.
In addition, with a design-bid-build project, the contractor rarely sees the plans while they are being developed, and if given the opportunity it is when the plans are 90% complete so the owner can start getting budget pricing from contractors. That being the case, the contractor has no input with regards to the structure or other components. This is the reason many projects have RFIs (requests for information) that they send to the architect for clarification of various aspects of the design. Many times the added detail given by the architect or engineers, in response to an RFI, requires unforeseen work and materials for the contractor, which he will seek compensation for from the owner. With a design build in Phoenix, since either the contractor works for the architect or the architect works for the contractor, they work hand in hand during the design and construction phases and these details get worked out without the added cost to the owner. Ultimately, the choice lies in the hands of the project owner, and perhaps a traditional approach will be the most convenient, since what has worked in the past often works in the future.