The construction of the Eiffel Tower started in 1887 and ended in 1889, spanning just 22 months. This duration was a technical feat at the time of completion. Even at the present level of technological advancement, it would take full coordination to complete a project of that magnitude in just 22 months.
The construction of the Eiffel Tower follows the design-build approach. Gustave Eiffel’s company designed and built the structure. The only point of deviation was the hiring of the architect who worked on the project’s appearance.
Project delivery is critical to a construction project. It is the system the owner of a project uses to organize and finance the design and construction of that project.
The two most widely used project delivery systems are — design-build and design-bid-build.
Design-build is a project delivery system where an entity (a construction company) handles the entire design and construction process. The owner enters into a contract with a single contractor. This contract binds the contractor to design and construct the project according to the owner’s instructions and specifications.
In a design-build project, the only contract is with the contractor. The contractor, in turn, hires subcontractors who handle the different aspects of the project.
The strength of design-build is in the coordination. The contractor designs the building and directs the pace of construction. Each subcontractor follows the blueprint given by the contractor, allowing for the smooth development of the project.
Flexibility is an advantage of the design-build system. The contractor can edit to design to suit new developments in the project.
In design-build, the contractor bears the project risk. All the subcontractors answer to the contractor, and this minimizes the owner’s risk.
What is Design-Bid-Build?
Design-bid-build is a project delivery system where the owner or the agency in charge of the project hires the architect and the contractor under separate contracts.
The owner first hires an architect to design the project. The architect submits the complete design documents to the owner, who in turn invites bids from contractors.
The architect and the contractor have no contractual agreement that binds them. The contractor only has to execute his part of the project. The owner bears all the risks associated with the execution of the design.
Design-bid-build allows for a construction management structure where a general contractor oversees the project in a managerial role. This role limits the contractor to the supervision of subcontractors.
The design-bid-build system is suitable for an owner who wants involvement in every aspect of the project. The system allows for greater control of the design and execution.
The design-bid-build system is in three phases. These are the design phase, the bid phase, and the construction phase.
The Design Phase
The design phase is where the owner hires an architect to design the building. The architect produces bid documents which include construction drawings and technical specifications. These are what contractors will bid on for the construction of the project.
The architect has to work with the owner to identify their need. The architect then uses this information to develop a conceptual or schematic design.
To complete the design, the architect brings other professionals on board. These include a structural engineer, a landscape architect, a civil engineer, MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineers, and a fire protection engineer. These professionals provide technical insights and assessment.
The Bid Phase
The architect submits the bid documents to the owner, who then distributes them to general contractors. These contractors can invite bids from subcontractors using the technical specifications given by the architect.
The general contractors then submit their bids to the owner, detailing the price and materials proposed for the project.
The Construction Phase
The job of the architect is not complete yet. New developments may warrant the need for design changes or clarifications. The architect also reviews the progress of the project to certify that the contractor follows the design.
Because there is no contractual obligation between the contractor and the architect, the contractor notifies the owner if new development requires design changes or adjustments. The owner then gets the architect to effect the change.
Design-bid-build is the traditional project delivery system in the United States. The preference for the system is higher with public projects. An example of a public project that used the design-bid-build system is the improvement of the Wenatchee River crossing near the city of Wenatchee, WA.
The project included the expansion of the bridge deck to accommodate new lanes. The Washington Department of Transportation oversaw the project and designed the improvement in-house before putting it out to invite bids.
Because of the success of this project, the Washington Department of Transportation, between 2009 and 2011, used the design-bid-build system for all projects under $20 million.
What’s the difference between design-build and design-bid-design?
The difference between design-build and design-bid-design is that in design-build, the contractor oversees both design and construction. The contractor engages the architect in design-build and sees to the execution by subcontractors.
In design-bid-build, the owner or agency in charge oversees both the design and the construction. The owner reserves more autonomy and, consequently, assumes more risk. The architect and contractor have no agreement in this system and both answer to the owner.
A design-bid-build contract is unlike a design-build contract. The design-bid-build contract is between the owner and the architect and also between the owner and the contractor.
Typically, the owner hires an architect for the design. However, the owner can complete the design in-house as the Washington Department of Transportation did.
The design-bid-build contract is different from the design-build contract by specifying the part of the project the contractor handles.
The Advantages of Design-Build
- Because the contractor handles design and construction, the owner assumes less risk. This greater risk is on the contractor, whose experience and expertise the owner relies on for the project.
- The design-build system allows for greater coordination. The contractor designs the project and directs the pace at which it moves. All subcontractors answer to the contractor, and everyone follows the approved designs.
- Design-build fosters communication and collaboration. Contractors usually work with subcontractors they trust. This trust, many times, grows from years of working together. This relationship makes collaboration easy. Since everyone contributes expert input before the final approval of the design, there is little or no finger-pointing or blaming.
- As mentioned earlier, the contractor adjusts the design easily in the light of new development.
- In the design-bid-build approach, the owner and the architect wield greater control over the project. A general contractor might even be in the picture to oversee the construction as a manager. The problem with this is the multiple layers of management. It slows the process of decision-making.
In the design-build system, only the contractor makes the decision, making the decision-making process faster.
- As a follow-up to the last point, design-build also saves time and cost. Decision-making is fast, giving room for fewer mistakes and saving money in the process. Change orders are minimal as the contractor follows the construction closely from the start.
- Because the owner has little involvement in the project, there may be a conflict between what the owner has in mind and what the contractor builds. The contractor could have made changes to the design a few times.
- The owner may not be getting the best project. Many contractors like to work with who they know and trust, and this gives little or no room to assess new and better subcontractors.
- Quality of work can be an issue with the design-build system. The contractor may rush the project and move to a new one, creating a doubt in the quality of the job done.
The Advantages of Design-Bid-Build
- The architect looks out for the interests of the owner. The design expresses what the owner has in mind, and the architect reviews the project to ensure that subcontractors follow specifications.
- The owner wields greater control in the design-bid-build process and ensures that the contractors give their best to the project.
- There is a competitive bidding process in the design-bid-build system, and this gives the owner the option to select the best person for the job.
- Design-bid-build allows the owner to make better decisions about cost. In the bidding phase, contractors offer different prices to the owner.
- The design-bid-build process does not give room for quick decision-making. New developments may warrant some adjustment in the design, but this may take time as the owner and architect have to approve changes.
- Conflicts are more likely to occur among subcontractors as everyone adopts different systems and work at their pace.
- Subcontractors have no input in the design of the project. Thus, when the execution turns out bad, conflict and finger-pointing can be the result.
- There is always a tendency for the owner to stick with the cheapest bid. This preference may affect the quality of the job. Experienced and established contractors are not always cheap.
Does Design-Build Save Money?
Design-build saves cost as there is streamlined project management. The contractor controls all aspects of the project, removing multiple layers of management.
Design-build fosters collaboration and teamwork. Thus, conflicts hardly occur, and this saves resources. The contractor can give an estimate of project costs and execute within the budget as resources are well-managed.
In the design-bid-build system, when issues arise, the architects or designers have to make adjustments or clarifications. These constant interventions cost money.
Architectural firms charge 5% to 20% of the total project cost, making design-bid-build projects more expensive. In design-build, the contractor uses an in-house architect, saving costs.
Design-Build v Design-Assist
In the design-build system, the contractor oversees the project from design to construction. Subcontractors have the opportunity to give their input to the design and even suggest adjustment mid-construction. Design-assist takes a similar approach.
In design-assist, subcontractors work with the architect or designer early in the project to give expert input on their aspects. For instance, the plumbing subcontractor might notice a flaw in the design that can affect sewer lines and quickly point it out.
In the design-bid-build process, the subcontractors don’t have any input in the design, resulting in conflicts arising out of a mistake or an oversight in the design.
Design-Build v Plan/Spec (Plan and Spec)
Plan and Specifications is a delivery system where the owner engages a design firm (or an architect) to design a construction project. The owner then hires a construction company that executes the design.
In plan and spec, the owner has a design ready, the contractor’s job is to carry it out. In design-build, however, the contractor oversees design and construction.
The owner gives room for contractors to bid on the design and can calculate how much the project will cost in anticipation of what contractors will bid.
Choosing the Perfect Project Delivery Method
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