How design-build compares to traditional construction

Today's buildings have more demands placed on them than ever before, meaning today's projects are more complex than at any time in human history. With increasing specialization in everything from smart building technologies and HVAC setups to energy-efficiency and more, no design professional is an expert in every building element. It takes a robust, multi-disciplined team to get a project right.

And therein lies the problem with general contracting.

In the traditional general contracting method, owners first hire an architect, who designs the facility, then bid out construction work to contractors, often selecting the low bidder. As a result, there's a lack of specialized construction expertise on the design team, leading to incomplete, unclear or impractical design specifications. These design challenges inherently cause expensive, time-consuming changes late in the project, conflicts between architect and contractor and, ultimately, increased owner risk.

By contrast, design-build brings expert construction and trade professionals — who will ultimately be tasked with executing the designs — into the process from the start. These professionals aid the design team by evaluating designs for cost, schedule, constructability and sustainability at the onset of a project. Specifications can be value engineered from the start. Cost overruns can be eliminated.

And schedule can be streamlined.

The process paves the way for all project parties, owner included, to work creatively as problem solvers. Innovation is now part of the project, and instead of being felled by complexity, owners can take advantage of emerging best practices and technologies. Operating as a cohesive unit from start to finish, the team — again, owner included — identifies better building methods, smarter technologies and best-value solutions.

Reducing uncertainty and risk

Design-build aligns all project parties on one team, eliminating disputes between architect and contractor for the owner to settle. With all project parties working together, the design is more robust and complete, requiring far fewer late-game changes on the job site. And the numbers bear this out.

When compared with general contracting, design-build sees 11.4 percent less schedule growth and 5.2 percent less cost growth during construction. That means less uncertainty, fewer change orders and significantly reduced owner risk.

Learn more about design-build here.

Anthony Walker helps develop value for clients through a focused understanding of planning, design and construction. He is a licensed architect in Illinois and a designated design-build professional. He is a member of the AIA, ASHE and ACHE.

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