What is Design-Build and how does it work?

Thought Leadership on Enhancing Your Business Through Design Build presented by Rocchi Construction.

Design-Build is a method of construction project delivery in which one entity, the Design-Build team, works under a single contract with the project owner to provide complete design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of information and work from initial concept through completion.

Design-Build is an alternate to the traditional Design-Bid-Build project delivery method. Under the latter approach, design and construction services are split into separate entities, separate contracts and separate work. Around the world and throughout the country, Design-Build has successfully delivered projects of all types with superior results.

Design-Build is a comprehensive process and, based on the complexity of the project, it may include all or some of the following preliminary steps:

  1. Initial programming: Determining the client’s spatial needs and requirements
  2. Feasibility studies: Reviewing building options or locations with a close look at code issues, existing conditions, restrictions or limitations, and existing conditions that could significantly impact the budget.
  3. Develop a schematic design to determine if the space or site will accommodate the initial program.
  4. Provide a preliminary budget to establish a basis prior to moving ahead with the next level of design.
  5. Develop a preliminary schedule to lay out the timeline for the entire process, including design, permitting and construction.
  6. Establish a list of options in design or finishes for budgeting purposes

With the above steps completed, the project owner and Design-Build contractor proceed with a contract. The typical contract form used is available through the American Institute of Architects library of documents. Once a contract is executed, the following progression will occur:

  1. A contract is executed between the Design-Builder and a registered architectural firm. The contract language includes all the previously prepared preliminary documents along with the schematic design, the schedule and the budget. This establishes an early commitment by all parties to ensure the budget and schedule are met.
  2. In turn, the architectural firm will contract with a support team that may include engineers for structural, mechanical, electrical, civil, life safety, acoustical, interior design, etc.
  3. As design proceeds, the Design-Builder monitors the progress and work of the architect and the support team to ensure the schedule and budgeting are on track.
  4. Depending on the complexity, progress drawings are presented to the client at varying stages of completion for review and approval.
  5. The Design-Builder will update the preliminary budget to ensure the costs are tracking with the predetermined goal. Additional options may also be considered to provide the owner with choices for finishes, systems and scope changes for improvements or savings.
  6. When the drawings are about 90% complete, they will likely be adequate for building permit application. With client approval, the Design-Builder will make application to the local jurisdiction.
  7. Final pricing can now be established. The Design-Build contractor will distribute plans and detailed bid requirements, including work scopes, to multiple subcontractors and suppliers for all the various trades required for the particular project. The bidding documents will also include a detailed schedule, along with the anticipated start of construction. This task can coincide with the permit process so that all the costs can be established while the permit is being processed, which will typically require three to four weeks, depending on the local jurisdiction.

At this point, the final cost, schedule and design are complete and it is time to commence construction. The Design-Build contractor will present to the owner all the final documents for approval, along with a list of additional cost options. A final contract for the construction portion is then executed and work begins. Depending on the complexity, the owner involvement during the construction phase can vary dramatically. This could include regular project meetings, review and selection of finishes, dealing with third-party resources such as phone systems, furniture, décor, etc.

This is a very concise description of the ideal Design-Build method of project delivery. In the next article, we will lay out the advantages and disadvantages of using Design-Build as compared to the traditional method of Design-Bid-Build.

Click here for more Thought Leadership by Rocchi Construction.