Breaking into Design-Build Project Delivery (August 2009)
Three project delivery methods dominate the procurement of construction in the United States: Design-Bid-Build, Construction Management, and Design-Build. Design-Bid-Build remains very popular due both to custom and statute. Design-Bid-Build project delivery is based on an owner acquiring design documents from design professionals and then biding those theoretically complete design documents to multiple contractors who offer a price to build the project. Construction Management has been a growing method of project delivery due to its ability to bring construction expertise to an owner’s team for the duration of the project. These methods are being challenged by Design-Build project delivery.
Design-Build construction is a rapidly expanding project delivery method in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) Industry. Construction managers who have been trained to stay away from anything that smells of design have to take a look at a new project delivery system steeped in it. Transitioning to Design-Build project delivery from the more comfortable arena of Design-Bid-Build project delivery requires a broader perspective, creates new risks to manage, and evaluates new components of contractual performance. For many what is most difficult is the necessity to bridge the organizational and personal bias that has been sculpted by long experience in the adversarial design-bid-build system that has dominated commercial construction.
By reviewing the best practices of successful design-build teams and applying them to the process of transformation, this paper outlines a path for an established contractor to prepare for their first design-build proposal (or to make the call that design-build is not for their firm). The paper assumes that the reader is a contractor capable of effective project management and a leader in a General Contracting firm. The standard forms of agreements available from industry organizations are compared and specific policies and organizational behaviors are proposed to transition from a traditional contractor in a Design-Bid-Build world to a contractor capable of successfully operating as a Design-Build organization.
There will be various sources of friction to this transition. This paper presents opportunities for structural or behavioral change that construction managers can implement to optimize the performance of their new design-build teams. A discussion of the impact of each decision along the path will allow the reader to plan for the associated project impact that may follow. Areas of further research are suggested by the opportunities and challenges of Design-Build project delivery. The results of the study provide an idealized transition path for construction managers who plan to hire design professionals in seeking Design-Build work.
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