7 Reasons Why Design-Build Delivery is Increasingly Popular

Have you felt like more and more projects are using design-build (DB) delivery lately? If so, your intuition is correct. While design-build has been in use for many years, its popularity has been steadily growing in recent years. According to recent census data, design-build construction spending will surpass $1.2 trillion dollars by 2021, with an expected growth rate of 18% and more than $320 billion in increased spending. By 2021, design-build construction spending will represent 44% of all construction dollars. Manufacturing, Highway/Street and Education represent the market sectors with the greatest percentage growth during the 2018-2021 period, with highest growth rates in the Mountain, Pacific , and South Atlantic census divisions at more than 6% growth each.

As owner’s representatives, program managers, and construction managers working in the Education sector and with other public and private entities, we at MAAS Companies have experienced this trend firsthand. We have led and managed design-build contracting and execution for dozens of projects and have seen the benefits—and challenges—this delivery method presents.

Why the Surge in Design-Build Delivery?

Design-build’s core differences from the traditional design-bid-build method are its “one team” structure through having a single contractual entity and the speed at which a project can be executed with the design and construction teams engaged concurrently. When executed correctly, design-build can enable owners to save time and money and better manage project risks. Like all delivery methods, knowing the advantages and foreseeing the potential pitfalls are key factors to proper execution and reaping the values of design-build delivery.

There are many reasons why owners are choosing design-build for both new construction and renovation projects. Here, we’ll explore seven different factors.

1. Teamwork / Collaboration:

Project teams (designers, engineers, and contractors) always say they will work together like “one team”, but with separate contracts, the risks of collaboration breakdown rest squarely on the owner. With design-build’s single contractual entity existing between the contractor and the owner, and the design team contracted to the builder, the team really is all in this together; they share the goal of completing a successful project that meets the owner’s expectations. When the “one team” encounters design, construction, schedule, or cost challenges on the project, everyone rolls up their sleeves and works together to find solutions and minimize the risk to both the team and owner. Integrating designers, engineers, and construction professionals also builds a trustful working environment, with all parties sharing common objectives and working as a team to identify the most innovative and best-value solutions for the owner.

2. Continuity:

Depending on the Owner’s procurement process, a design-build team can be involved in the project from project feasibility assessments through to close out. This continuity adds an inherent efficiency and effectiveness to the process—having key decision-makers consistently involved in the project greatly reduces the chance of items being unresolved, forgotten, overlooked, or “falling through the cracks.”

3. More Direct Communication:

The best partnerships work not because people say what everyone wants to hear, but because they say what everyone needs to hear. Communication between the Owner and the design-build team can be more transparent, and with designer and contractor under one contract, owners are always dealing with the responsible party to resolve issues. When issues of scope, quality, time, risk and cost arise, it is in the best interest of the design-build team to address them with the Owner immediately. This empowers the owner to manage their expectations, stakeholders, and risks sooner rather than later.

4. Professional Expertise:

As design-build has become more prevalent, more firms are becoming “one stop shops” to serve the demand and integrating design, engineering and construction expertise. Design-build firms are typically led by licensed architect and engineers and/or professional builders with formal training in many disciplines. They have professional experience in the construction process and understand pricing, market dynamics, assembly, sequencing, scheduling, and contracts and risk management. Expert design-build firms are knowledgeable of general construction best practices and have strong, lasting partnerships with reliable subcontractors, which aids in reducing the stress, chaos, and time delays associated with many construction projects. Design-build firms can be trusted construction business advisors to owners throughout the entire project process. Owners expect best value in terms of quality, time, and cost. A diverse and experienced team that can educate and partner with them to evaluate options in all key areas of the construction process can help them achieve this value.

5. Increased Accountability:

Having a single design-build entity gives the owner a single point of contact and accountability, reducing their administrative burdens and allowing them to focus more on the project rather than managing multiple contracts. The design-builder is accountable for the entire project from beginning to end, including the design program, materials selection, engineering systems, budget, and schedule. They are also responsible for resolving problems or risks related to scope, pricing, quality, warranty, and scheduling risks throughout the process. This can lead to fewer litigation claims for all involved.

6. Time / Schedule Savings:

In construction, time is money! According to Construction Industry Institute, design-build is 102% faster than design-bid-build and 61% faster than construction manager at risk (CM@R).

The design and construction process involves managing several activities and timelines that need to be carefully sequenced and coordinated. With design-build, the team can address the inherent conflicts between these activities earlier rather than later, which helps teams collaboratively identify the project’s “critical path” for completion. Design-build also creates opportunities for owners to contemplate major decisions, ask questions, and consider their options with the support of an expert team involved early, which helps to minimize any impact to the critical path of the project.

The design-build method is highly adaptive and responsive in the field, which minimizes time required to address changes and better enables adjustments to recover time, helping reduce the potential for change orders or additional fees and maintain the original completion date.

Data sourced from report published by Construction Industry Institute:

7. Cost Savings:

Several studies have verified the cost savings associated with design-build delivery. Findings from Construction Industry Institute study indicate that design-build can contribute to a 6% total project cost savings, and it is typically more effective than other methods—3.8% greater savings than design-bid-build and 2.4% savings over CM@R.

The benefits of Design-Build are compelling. However, project characteristics, client requirements, and other situational factors must be considered when selecting a delivery method. Successful project execution, regardless of delivery method, requires strong and effective leadership. For owners primarily focused on keeping their business operational, finding the right construction partner is critical. We at MAAS serve as owner’s representatives, program and project managers, financial managers, and construction managers. From individual projects to multimillion-dollar programs, MAAS proactively establishes priorities, coordinates participants and activities, and controls scope, schedule, budget, quality, resources, and risk to provide peace of mind to clients while navigating the complexities capital construction programs across all procurement and delivery methods.

No matter the method of delivery, owner involvement is absolutely essential

Owner involvement is critical in design-build delivery as much as it is with any other method. Whether taking on project and construction management as an internal role or working with a third-party representative, owners must be an active participant in the building design and construction process. Active participation looks like asking a lot of questions about scope, reviewing for quality in both project designs and construction means and methods, and closely monitoring the associated costs of design and construction decisions during the early stages of design and estimating. Advocating for your goals, expectations, and aspirations makes the difference between project success and frustration.