People, Projects /

3 Intangibles to Design-Build

The design-build delivery method can set the stage for a smoother running project. The designer and the constructor sit at the same table with the owner from the beginning, understanding requirements and minimizing lapses in communication. When done well, this single source method of contracting has several side benefits for the project team such as quicker speed to market, higher quality, better overall value and cost, less change orders and less claims.

Some owners, designers and contractors dive right into the design-build contract arrangement thinking it will solve any problem, but the legal contract alone is not enough. There are several intangibles that contribute to the repeated success of the often complex commercial construction projects. Below are just three:

Awareness: The first step in working better together is to make sure team members are aware of, understand, and respect the roles and goals of the stakeholders in a project. For example, the designer should provide a safe, functional, code compliant project that meets the owner’s needs in addition to a creative, unique design. The contractor is responsible to control safety, risk and schedule while maintaining quality to “get the job done”. Owners must sometimes go through the craziness of design and construction in order to make their operation better. All parties involved desire to build an ongoing relationship and be profitable.

Attitude: Success in the design-build arena requires a different attitude than the traditional design-bid-build method of construction delivery. Collaboration and cooperation are critical for the betterment of the project and the relationship of the project team. Everyone needs to be in the same boat rowing the same direction at the same time, and successful teams have a good row master to keep everyone focused. A little fun sprinkled in never hurts either!

Integrity: This is one of the most important intangibles for each independent team member, because without integrity all other metrics for a great project are out the window. From a contractor’s point of view, one example would be how the GC acts when presented with a problem at the job site. There is often a “right” way to fix something and a cheap way. A good moral compass will point the GC to think about the best interest of not only his short-term bottom dollar, but also the longevity of the solution, the other team members and the impact of the project. Every team member will have similar challenges.

Having grown up in commercial construction, I’ve enjoyed using this project delivery method for many years. Each project is unique, and having the right team with the experience and the intangibles can make a big difference in creating a win-win for all the stakeholders.