A Paradigm Shift

A Paradigm Shift

The advantages of using design-build as a method for new construction.

Planners and administrators at colleges and universities across the country face a daunting task: how to complete renovations or build new facilities in a tumultuous and challenging economic climate. We cannot expect that wholesale improvement will come quickly, but the need to improve facilities is a pressing reality.

Residence halls, classroom buildings, research facilities and athletic centers need to be built, and existing facilities need upgrades in order for these institutions to serve society and create 21st-century learning and living opportunities. The design-build approach to design and construction has resurfaced as an efficient and cost-effective delivery for projects facing schedule and budget constraints. This approach differs substantially from the more prevailing “hard bid” or design-bid-build delivery methodology. But it is a methodology that meets tight schedules and budgets, and campus planners should consider it for high-quality design and construction. Design-build can exceed the expectations of an education institution, and its faculty and students.

Defining the process

Design-build is a contract methodology with a single contract between the education institution and the entity that provides all the design and construction services. It contrasts with traditional delivery, which depends on multiple contracts. In terms of overall benefit, industry research has shown that design-build can provide a school with an expedited schedule that often results in a lower cost, faster completion and higher quality than the two prevailing delivery approaches — design-bid-build and construction manager/general contractor (CMGC).

Why choose design-build? A few key reasons:

  • Design-build partnership

    When executed properly, it engenders a common commitment to success. By its nature, the process brings the designer and builder — all parties, in fact — together, early on, under one contract. This establishes a consensus on goals and priorities, and builds relationships. It also fosters collaboration and voluntary problem-solving. Parties are motivated to address issues rather than point fingers or assess blame. From a school's perspective, the process can eliminate or avoid design and cost issues that often hinder projects.

  • Continuous improvement

    Design-build allows for design as a continuum. In other words, it facilitates continuous refinement and improvement in collaboration with a construction partner. Because design and construction are integrated tightly, they are, by default, more productive and effective.

    The process enables all parties to interact effectively early on — designers, contractors and sub-contractors meet right from the start. The design team and process is better suited to eliminate unplanned adjustments or fixes, and make the project better, while still meeting overall school design and construction goals and schedules.

  • Teamwork resolves issues rapidly

    Because design-build fosters teamwork and collaboration among design and construction team members, it encourages effective solutions that balance design, construction cost and schedule. With design-build, the entire team is motivated to suggest ways to solve a problem and to identify the right solution given all considerations. The result, often early in the design or during construction, is a quick resolution that saves costs and keeps the project moving.

  • Quality assurance

    With design-build, quality is a shared goal and becomes achievable as a result of the mutual commitment and dedication among all partners. The school wants a facility that meets the needs of its users; responds well with other structures and aspects of the campus or the context; meets specific school project standards; is delivered on time and on budget; and functions at a high level over its expected life cycle.

The process ensures that a designer delivers quality as reflected in the appropriate space plan, the interior and exterior materials chosen, the architectural details and sustainability features. It further motivates the contractor and subcontractors to produce excellence in everything from permitting, site-staging preparation and construction, to project closeout.

Managing expectations

It falls to the designer and builder professionals to deliver projects that meet an institution's requirements, on budget and schedule with the assurance of quality design and construction. With the designer and contractor working under one contract with a collaborative, engaged school, all parties are motivated to create an optimal plan and to study the appropriate solutions to design and construction challenges. This results in a new or revitalized building or campus in which all participants can take utmost pride.

Woofter, AIA, is a senior associate and executive committee member of Yost Grube Hall Architecture, Portland, Ore. He can be reached at (503)221-0150.

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