Design-Build Delivery Method Gains Momentum

December 2nd, 2020 - By

One of the most exciting trends on the horizon for our company has been the rise in design-build projects. In both private and public sectors, the design-build project delivery method has become an increasingly popular choice by owners, making it one of today’s most significant trends in architecture and construction.
Experts use the term “project delivery” to describe the comprehensive process of planning, designing, and constructing a building project. Choosing a project delivery method is one of the fundamental decisions owners make when developing their building strategy.

Design-build is a project delivery method where one entity enters into a single contract with the owner to provide both design and construction services. In all other project delivery systems, there are separate contracts for each service.

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The design-build project delivery method is not new. While it was considered radical 25 years ago, this concept has actually been around for four millennia sinceMaster Builder Imhotep both designed and built the Egyptian pyramids. However, as design and construction evolved through the Middle Ages, the Italian Renaissance, and the early 1900s, the design-build project delivery method evolved alongside these key elements.

In Medieval history, tradesmen dominated the building environment. The coordinator and leader of the work was the architect, also known as the master builder. During the Renaissance, architects first began to separate themselves from the building trades. Again, in early American history, the architect was commonly the principal contractor for the building, but by the 20th century, there was a clear division between design professionals and construction trades. This division produced the traditional concept we now know as design-bid-build. With this method, the owner hires an architect to design their facility as well as a general contractor to build it, resulting in multiple points of contact for the owner.

In present times, design-build has made a resurgence in construction projects. Approximately forty percent of all new construction in the U.S. is produced using the design-build delivery, with more than half structured with the contractor as the team leader. According to the “Design-Build Utilization” report from 2018, design-build methods will represent close to half of all construction by 2021.

Why such a radical shift? It helps to consider some of the pros of design-build from an owner’s perspective.

  1. There is only one point of responsibility, minimizing owner risk and responsibility.
  2. Interactions between the contractor and the design team are more collaborative and better coordinated, saving time and money.
  3. With these two parties working together, there are more opportunities for innovation and fast-tracking the project schedule.
  4. Any potential conflicts between the architect and contractor are eliminated.
  5. The project team can establish and lock-in a budget earlier in the building process than with any other delivery method.
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The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Parking Deck was constructed using the design-build method. It received a National Merit Award from DBIA.

Nabholz’ design-build projects have ranged from small dental clinics to church renovations, but the biggest, and perhaps most exciting projects, are those for large manufacturing operations.

As a builder, Nabholz also sees multiple pros when operating under the design-build delivery method.

  1. It gives us the chance to strengthen our long-term relationships with design firms and forge relationships with new designers. If we do our job as the construction manager correctly, these designers may become a source of opportunities for our company.
  2. Nabholz’ diverse range of services shines during design-build projects, especially those for manufacturers. In fact, many of these larger projects result from the excellent work our service, environmental, industrial, or rail services groups provided the client in the past. In turn, when our construction team is awarded a project, many times, clients take advantage of our industrial services or our facility maintenance services. For projects in existing spaces, we promote Nabholz’ ability to test and abate hazardous environmental materials.
  3. We see Nabholz at its best. Every part of our company works towards creating the top results for the client. The legal team reviews contracts and agreements. Our preconstruction department works on costs, does value analysis, builds teams, and provides support to all our niche businesses. Our operations and production departments manage and execute the work, deliver a quality product, and consistently receive high owner feedback scores.

According to the report referenced above, owners identified “delivery schedule” as the greatest influence of project delivery method selection. The highly collaborative nature of the design-build process often presents more opportunities to shave time off the project schedule. However, the construction industry must continue to educate owners on the different project delivery methods in order for the owner to reap the most benefits during the construction process. With more and more owners learning exactly how design-build can benefit their projects, we anticipate delivering larger and more complex projects under design-build.

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