Professional Development: Design Build Revisited
By Vince Duobinis
Published in the October 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Although referenced as “Over the past 15 years…” on the Design-Build Institute of America’s website, the concept of design build is not new. Many consider this construction delivery method to have started with the master builders who were tasked to design and build the eternal resting places for the kings of ancient Egypt.
There have been many examples in more recent history. For almost 100 years, LEGOs®, Tinkertoys®, Erector Sets, and Lincoln Logs have encouraged the designer, engineer, and builder in all of us to design and build a project the best we could. These toys encouraged us to use our own creative skills to complete projects based on knowledge and experience.
To illustrate this point further, every year, schools engage in traditional egg drop experiments, where students are challenged to design and build a container to house an egg that will drop from a specified height without breaking its contents. The students are only instructed as to the ultimate outcome—not how the project is to be executed. They can use the knowledge they have garnered from their science or physics classes to create a project they feel will best meet their teacher’s edict.
Design build is the construction delivery method that provides for collaboration and integration from the start. As such, the process allows for all parties to agree mutually on the best way to complete a project to meet the group’s goals and not favor one entity over the other.
At a recent conference for the National Association of State Facility Administrators, Dr. Dean Kashiwagi, Ph.D., director of the Performance Based Studies Research Group at Arizona State University, said, “The more information facility owners have at the beginning, the shorter the event and the more predictable the outcome.”
Integrated project delivery, collaboration, and risk transfer are only a few benefits of the design build construction delivery method. Even still, many facility managers (fms) have been slow to move toward this more progressive form of construction, either due to lack of understanding or political challenges at their jurisdictional level.
Design bid build (where the fm hires an architectural firm to prepare the plans and specifications and then place them out for bid) is considered by many professionals to be the safer, more traditional construction method. Since the fm doesn’t have to understand new and different concepts, it’s less politically stressful. Fms often feel this approach is in the best interest of those ultimately paying for the project—investors (and sometimes taxpayers).
Releasing control is a challenging task, especially for those who manage the money of others. Over time, the concept of the fm going to an architectural/engineering firm to prepare documents (that are then presented to the construction industry to bid on and award to the lowest responsive bidder) has been treated as the best way to spend investment money and avoid potential views of favoritism.
But a myriad of problems exist using the design bid build delivery method. Here are just a few: bidders misunderstanding the plans and specifications; contractors failing to ask detailed questions so they can avoid providing valuable information on deficiencies to the competition; and contractors low bidding the solicitation, knowing they will make up their profit in change orders due to deficiencies in plans and specifications.
In their August 2009 Summary Report for the Water Design-Build Council, Susan Bogus Halter of the University of New Mexico, Jennifer Shane of Iowa State University, and Keith Molenaar of the University of Colorado at Boulder identified two key results comparing design build with design bid build. First, the median duration of design and construction on design build projects is 23 months (compared to 40 months for design bid build projects). Second, design build projects have less schedule growth (one month) than design bid build projects (two months). Both results benefit the fm in the long run by allowing for quicker occupancy.
Just as a patient would not direct a doctor on how to perform surgery, neither should an fm instruct builders on how best to construct. Fms must trust those with the experience and allow them to provide the best overall value to the end result.
Design build and job order contracting (or “design build lite,” ideal for renovation and repair projects) are two construction delivery methods that allow the fm to work directly with the contractor to develop and scope projects and allow the contractor to construct in the most efficient way—producing the best overall value and end result.
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