Design/Build – What does it mean?… an Overview

While in recent years the term has seemingly swept the country, You may wonder, is it just a marketing slogan,… a buzz word,… a hot button,… or does it really mean something? The concept is really the reincarnation of a way that things used to be done. For the better part of history builders were often designers and vice versa and it was only around the turn of the century that found themselves splitting apart.

Design/Build today gives you the client a seamless cost effective functional product from one accountable source. It’s a process that fits the time and lifestyles of today’s busy families providing a happier solution than the more conventional ” get at least three bids” approach we hear so much about .

Over the years as I’ve learned more and more about the building and remodeling trades I always sort of wondered about the process where an architect or designer designs a project and then puts it out to bid with let’s say three or more contractors for a client. To me that always seemed the equivalent of shooting an arrow and then drawing the target around where it hit. Many times the project would then come in way over the clients budget and it would have to go back to be redesigned and then put out to bid again thereby adding extra time and money to the design phase and further delaying the construction of the project.

To put it in a nutshell Design/Build puts the design phase and the estimating & planning phases of a project together. Since both processes take place concurrently the design and pre-construction planning timeline is shortened. But this only the beginning of the advantages to design build. With the design team working together with the production team the design team get feedback on the cost and time requirements their design efforts will require and the production team having greater time to familiarize themselves with the projects design can offer ideas and suggestions for materials and techniques that can save the client time and money in the construction phase thereby delivering more bang for the buck on the project. through the cracks.

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Defining the Design/Build process or paradigm*
(paradigm 2. an example; pattern, method —;Syn.2. model, mold, ideal, standard)

Instead of projects budget being the result or afterthought of the project’s design with the design/build process your design is derived as a result of your budget . A single contractor works as a team with an architect or designer during the design phase in order to accomplish cost efficiency and function while the design is being developed.

A full set of plans, elevations, and other drawings necessary to visualize the design along with an estimate, specifications, a projected schedule, and a detailed warranty are provided to the client before a final contractual commitment to build the project takes place. This gives the client a more accurate and complete picture of what the project entails well before the project starts.

The design/build process allows the contractor as project manager to do as much preplanning as possible before the job, so that when things are ready to proceed they done in a more efficient and orderly manner. This enables greater cost efficiencies by more closely integrating production procedures with the project’s intended design.

From concept to completion, you are working with one firm which manages the entire process. This eliminates blame shifting, where everyone claims it’s someone else’s fault, leaving the customer falling through the cracks.

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Why Not Just Get 3 Free Bids?

We were probably all taught to get 3 estimates and we’ve grown very accustomed to seeing contractors offer free estimates as a way of marketing their company. Over the years we’ve assumed that this was the way to get the best possible price for our project and keep the contractor honest. While there are cases in which this method has worked well for the client-consumer there countless cases where it has backfired in reality. Why?

Lack of Detail – Since the contractor faces the risk of not being chosen for the job, it is difficult to spend the proper time needed to work on anything but the price. He tends to be hasty and skimpy on the details of paperwork, because he can’t afford to do work he doesn’t get paid for. Unfortunately, you need to know exactly what he is going to do for this price in order to compare it with other bids, and be confident that the work done will be for the price quoted.

Inaccurate Estimate – The contractor bids low in order to obtain the job, figuring he can make it up in change orders throughout the job because of the vagueness of his contract. Since the contractor doesn’t get paid for his time, not a great deal of effort will be put into researching prices thoroughly, often basing them on what the client can pay. Usually he will not guarantee compensation for missed deadlines, nor guarantee the price. This is not fair to you, the client, especially if your budget is limited.

Many Conflicts – When nothing is stated in detail, either on paper or in plans, both client and contractor have their own version of the project. This is the beginning of many arguments, mistrust and frustration.

Most Jobs Take Longer Than Planned – The reason should be obvious. Until the contractor gets paid, he won’t do much. A well-managed project must have a lot of preparation before construction begins, or else delays may occur. Coordination problems, special orders not arriving on time, scheduling problems with subcontractors, legal requirements, selections not made, materials not shipped, and other problems all cause the job to take at least 50% longer than Design/Build. This results in the nightmare of having your house torn apart!

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The Typical Design/Build Process

The Initial Consultation – A representative of the company or design/build team you’re considering will usally come to your home and listen to your ideas, needs and design concepts, discuss general prices, define a budget, and explain the Design/Build process they work with.

Preliminary Designs – Upon signing a contract for preliminary designs, a designer or draftman will take measurements and photos of your property, prepare fundamental sketches, and give a more detailed cost outline of the project. Once the client has decided on a perspective for the project a contract for Design/Build is signed, and sketches are usally given to the client.

The Design/Build Agreement – During this phase a full set of plans is drawn which includes a site plan, side elevations, foundation plan, floor plan, framing layout, roof lines, a door schedule, window schedule, an appliance and fixture schedule, a room finish schedule, and specifications. In addition, a comprehensive onstruction contract proposal with terms and conditions for the scope and cost of work is provided. Any engineering reports or city requirements are pursued at this time and upon signing a construction contract, the client receives the plans.

The Construction Contract – Anything that has been discussed between the designer or design team and the client must be written, or else it will not be considered part of the agreement between client and contractor. Any additions or changes that the client wishes to have done at this point are generally approcached and executed through written change orders to the contract.

Project Preparation – Generally after a construction contract is signed, the contractor will need four to twelve weeks to prepare the project properly depending upon the projects size and scope.Product selections made consulting with the client and the design/build team prepares material lists, subcontract agreements, schedule charts, job folders, special orders (so that they can be stocked before construction starts), job cost budgets, material purchase shopping, utilities are ordered, and personnel is scheduled.

Pre-Construction Conference – Typically before work commences, the client, project manager, and lead carpenter meet to discuss and further clarify the scope of the project and make any final adjustments necessary that are of concern. The actual construction work should begin soon after this.

Construction Start – Now that everything has been properly prepared while outside your home, the work can be done in an expeditions manner.

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The Advantages of Design/Build

You Can Save Money– I’d like to stress the word can because when design/build is properly executed and the design and project managment teams are working together in the design process, cost efficient means of construction can be designed into the project from the beginning. It’s amazing how you find was to do things on a budget when you have to. The security of the client’s commitment to the project in the early stages helps the contractor to reciprocate with reduced costs. Since the contractor has intimate knowledge of cost effective construction techniques and materials design concepts can be developed from the beginning that reflect a realistic understanding of construction costs and the budget guidelines established by the client. Additionally contractor as a design/builder has more time to gather the best prices from vendors, as opposed to the short time commonly allowed in the competitive bidding process.

Collaborative decision making between the design and construction staff as opposed to the hierarchical approach found in competitive bid, saves time and ensures the most cost-effective, maintenance-free, energy saving building possible. While the design staff focuses on what should be built and how it will look, the construction staff focuses on how it will be built and what it will cost.

It Takes Less Time – From concept to completed project the design/build approach requires less time than the competitive bid approach. Several events may occur simultaneously, such as design, regulatory approvals, financing, price planning and scheduling. Paradigm having singular control of the schedule and is therefore in a better position to expedite the whole process. Your home is torn up for a shorter period of time, since a good portion of the work is done before construction begins. The direct communications between the client and Paradigm can also prevent delays caused by unanswered questions or slow information transfer. Change orders can be implemented quickly at a minimum cost.

More Cost Efficenent Design- Since the project being designed is going to be built by workers and trade contractors that are all included as part of the planning process, the plans and specifications need not be as comprehensive as they would ordinarily be in a competitive bid project . The cost of architectural work typically ranges from 2 to 5 percent of the total project cost with Paradigm design/build, as opposed to the 5 to 12 percent architectural firms often charge in competitive bid arrangements.

Better Craftsmanship – Since the project manager has a hand in the design, construction materials and methods with which the company and crew are familiar are designed into the project. This means better management and a more efficient use of skills and company expertise. Because the Paradigm staff is so fully in control, we have a strong incentive to make certain that all details-from design through construction are properly addressed.

Reduced Hassles – The client’s administrative role is dramatically reduced, for he or she must no longer facilitate communications between an architect and a contractor. In addition, the design/build approach requires only one set of financial and communication records.Since Paradigm assumes all responsibility for planning, design, pricing, and constructing the project coordination and oversight activities, as well as inter-party communications, are all enhanced.

Passing the Buck Is Elieminated– By limiting the number of “chiefs,” the client is exposed to less buck-passing than often occurs in competitive bid projects. Questions pertaining to the clarity completeness, or “constructability” of the plans and specifications are eliminated along with the legal exposure posed by multiple parties.

Less Conflict – Most contractors strive for excellence. When details aren’t spelled out and addressed in advance, conflict between the contractor and client usually ensues. Since most contractors “wing it,” these decisions are made in a forced context where a contract is already signed. With Design/Build, a commitment to do work takes place after these items are discussed.

A Friendly Relationship With Your Contractor – Since there is plenty of time for the contractor to demonstrate character in advance of the actual construction the potential for conflict is reduced, there is a much better opportunity to become friends before work ever commences. You’d rather have a friend working on your house, wouldn’t you?

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What Design-Build Is Not:

It’s not a panacea. The success of a design/Build project is predicated upon initial trust in the abilities of the Design/Build team. Any advantages that there might be to the traditional competitive bid are eliminated.

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The Other Processes of Contract Work We Will Examine Here:

While Design/Build is for many clients and contractors a preferred method of work there are other formats which depending on the project might be better suited to a particular clients needs.

  • Negotiated Contracts: Usually a hybrid or combination of methods whereby the final construction documents and scope of work is modified because of budget restrictions.
  • Cost / Plus: A method that has no fixed contract price with the possible exception of a not to exceed ceiling price. This procedure is best used in a situation where there are numerous unknown conditions that can effect the work throughout the construction process.
  • Competitive Bid: Occasionally a client may approach us with a complete set of plans already in hand and they have real interest in us performing the work to execute the project. The most popular and well known method of contract work. We will provide limited bid proposals in a pre-qualified situation.