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6 Benefits of the Design-Build Method

March 5, 2019


No matter the size or scope of your construction project, it’s important to have a team built on open communication and relationships. By accelerating and accentuating the necessity of teamwork, Design-Build has quickly made a name for itself as the fastest-growing method for construction projects. Design-Build stands in stark contrast to the conventional Design-Bid-Build means of delivering a construction project.

With Design-Bid-Build delivery:

  • The property owner directs the efforts of the designer and contractor as independent contracts.
  • Issues and conflicts can develop from disagreements about design, cost, constructability, schedule, or even functionality, resulting in delays while issues are sorted.
  • Over time, contentious relationships can develop as a result of pointing fingers.
  • This can lead to project schedules running long and going over budget as the parties work out those issues as best they can.

Using Design-Build delivery:

  • The property owner has a single point of contact and a single person responsible for getting things done. This single entity is known as the design–builder or design–build contractor.
  • As the architect, engineers, general contractor, and sub-consultants are all collaborating and operating as a team with the same goals in mind, they are incentivized to work together throughout the entire design and construction process.
  • Project milestones and goals are prioritized from the start, can stay on track, and are more easily achieved as the entire team works together to complete them.

Sabre has identified six specific areas that best illustrate why a Design-Build approach may be advisable for your next construction project.

The Six Benefits of the Design-Build System

 #1 A single contract

Specifically, the owner has only one point of contact throughout design and construction. Not only does this help reduce potential delays and budget overruns, but it keeps the owner actively involved and participating in design discussions, evaluations, and decisions.

The owner sees first-hand how decisions are made by the team as a cohesive group. Projects no longer suffer because one or several voices dictate specific items or a particular narrow agenda no matter the overall impact on the project.

The Design-Build approach keeps the design on target because it uses a systematic approach. The team can make focused design decisions by constantly weighing functionality, aesthetic value, cost, schedule impact, constructability, and quality against the owner’s stated goals. This keeps all stakeholders engaged and contributing ideas, and it helps each participant avoid feeling like their input and recommendations are being ignored or overlooked, no matter the stage of design.

#2 Increased efficiency

With the traditional Design-Bid-Build model, you have to factor in a significant amount of time for repeated communication between contractors and designers. Depending on how thorough and clear the design documents are in conveying the scope of the project, contractors may not understand the full intent of the design. This means confusion, possible misinterpretation of the intended scope, lost time and added cost in writing and answering RFIs and clarifying nuances in approach.

By opting for a Design-Build approach, contractors and designers work together to define the intent of each scope against the owner’s goals so everyone ultimately agrees how that intent is best achieved. This saves not only frustration from potential confusion or lack of understanding about scope, it provides significant time savings.

Since design and construction are part of the same team and not separate groups with individual goals and interests, these efforts overlap and complement each other. This also includes saving money on resources, because the increased partnership means better planning and scheduling resources for efficient project delivery with pre-purchase of material during preconstruction.

#3 Better awards

Instead of subcontract awards always being made based solely on low price, awards for a Design-Build project are based on a combination of qualifications, capabilities, experience, and price, providing the owner and project a better value. A hard bid can deliver a group of initial low numbers, but often, if ambiguities exist in drawings or specifications, change orders may significantly alter the initial cost expectation post-bid.

Design-Build ensures an experienced and capable set of contractors are hired to provide the most efficient scope at the best price possible, while still maintaining the highest quality. As contractors participate and assist in the design, they then thoroughly understand the intent of the design and all its requirements. This eliminates confusion, change orders, and delays in ordering material and equipment which might otherwise add additional cost or schedule time.

#4 Reduced project risk

The increased collaboration inherent to Design-Build increases communication and diffuses risk equally between the owner, contractor, and designer. Everyone is truly on the same team, which means everyone feels responsible for their contributions to the project and the success that plays in achieving the owner’s goals.

It also encourages participants to do their best possible work. The designer and contractor work with the owner to execute their vision for what the project will require, so be sure you establish appropriate contingencies for an equitable sharing of risk between the parties.

#5 Efficient design processes

This is the crux of the Design-Build model. The owner is able to immediately engage with the contractor and the design team from the start of the design process to achieve a more practical and buildable solution. It also means the owner can directly consult with the designer and contractor simultaneously at any other stage of the design process.

Design-Build eliminates time going back-and-forth with edits and changes, as collaboration streamlines the process to quickly and efficiently define and develop the design. The team works together from the same set of goals, which creates a strong working relationship and encourages open communication throughout the entire design and construction process.

#6 Enhanced decision-making

Under the traditional Design-Bid-Build model, contractors and designers are frequently at odds with each other, especially when it comes to the cost-benefit analysis of materials and building guidelines. Designers have particular recommendations based on function, aesthetics, quality, or all three items together, but often don’t consider the cost or schedule impact of making those decisions. This results in decisions being made in a vacuum, which later leads to people making numerous and timely scope adjustments for cost purposes to adjust to the owner’s budget.

When you choose Design-Build, quality and cost considerations can be evaluated by the entire team in an open forum quickly and efficiently. Together, everyone agrees upon a clear and unambiguous set of design documents, specifications, and requirements – all aligned with the owner’s goals.

Is Design-Build Right for Me?

Sabre has been successful with the Design-Build project approach because of its cooperative nature. It gets everyone working on the same page from the beginning of the project, and it encourages people to stay on that page until the work is complete.

But ultimately, two types of construction projects are the best matches for a Design-Build approach:

Projects that require a consolidated timeframe or budget constraint, and
Projects with unique or non-standard scope items, finishes, or specialty systems

With a fast-track project, Design-Build brings each of the project stakeholders to the table and ensures a collaborative work environment. Everyone focuses their efforts on a design specifically generated to achieve the owner’s stated goals and allows the work to be performed efficiently and successfully.

When a project dictates unique design features requiring out-of-the-box thinking, Design-Build enables everyone to fairly but efficiently evaluate options, constructability, and costs as a team. This ensures the design achieves the project goals within the established parameters. We're also able to alleviate communication issues and potential delays inherent with the nuances of a fully custom build.

Call Sabre if you’re ready to learn more about Design-Build and how we can help you achieve your goals on your next project!

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