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Design / Build

Considering Design-Build for Your Project

If saving money and time is important, consider design-build for your commercial project. When the right team is assembled, the process is simpler for the owner, takes less time and avoids the conflicts that typify conventional projects.

Design-build is an agreement between an owner and a single company that will design and build a facility. The design-build company may be an integrated builder. More often, it is an alliance formed by a contractor such as JMA and a design team specially tailored to the needs of the owner.

The Owner’s Role

The owner selects a design-build company and develops criteria for the facility. Basic expectations set out by the owner serve as reference for choosing a design-build team with the right experience and approach to help the owner develop the project requirements in detail. During the design phase, the owner provides feedback to the design-build team on adequacy of the design, schedule and budget projections. In the construction phase, the owner makes material selections and observes progress to verify that the design-build team is proceeding with full understanding and compliance with the basic expectations set out earlier.

The Architect’s Role

The design process for an architect on a design-build team is more interactive than with conventional projects. Having a contractor available to quickly evaluate alternative designs means the architect gets earlier feedback. This makes the early planning stages more complex but assures a smoother path through preparation of design documents. It eliminates the need for defensive detailing and over-designing that are necessary when the quality of the contractor is unknown or a selection has not yet been made. The architect is consulted all the way through construction, for advice on selections and potential changes to ensure code compliance and meet the owner’s objectives.

JMA’s Role

During the design phase, JMA not only reports projected cost, but also manages it to meet the owner’s budget and deadlines. This is achieved by constant value engineering, monitoring design progress and adherence to the owner’s criteria, reviewing plans for constructibility issues and assuring reliable cost input by using experienced and appropriate subcontractors. During construction, JMA ensures that the work progresses in accordance with the schedule, design decisions are communicated when necessary to keep ahead of construction and the owner’s criteria are being met.

When and Where Design-Build Works Best

The best projects for design-build are ones that are schedule driven and price sensitive, with fairly clear scope and requirements and an owner who does not want to be responsible for detailed management of the process. Even when not all of these conditions are present, design-build agreements offer the flexibility of being adapted to assure meeting specified goals.

Government buildings, process plants, bridges and high-rises have all been built using design-build agreements. Our experience has shown design-build to be well suited to office buildings, manufacturing buildings, warehouses and medical buildings. For residential new construction and remodeling, we have found that partnering with the owner and an independent architect is the best approach. This facilitates a close relationship between the owner and architect to develop a vision for the home. As the concepts and scope develop, we help with the same kinds of advice we offer in design-build projects.

Summarizing the Advantages of Design-Build

In a nutshell, the following advantages characterize JMA’s design-build projects:

  • Project cost is established early, before design work is completed, with smaller initial investment.
  • Builder input is included during design so the owner benefits from ongoing value engineering.
  • There are fewer and smaller change orders because design problems are JMA’s responsibility.
  • JMA acts as the single point of responsibility for design and construction.
  • The collaborative relationship between architect and builder ensures that the owner does not have to mediate between adversaries.
  • Approximately 85 percent of the project is competitively bid.
  • Selection of the design-build company is the owner’s key decision and once that decision is made, the owner can concentrate on what’s important to him.
  • The rate of litigation is much lower because communication and consultation are built into the process.
  • Faster project completion.