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Counting on Benefits: Design-Build for Commercial Buildings

Counting on Benefits: Design-Build for Commercial Buildings

The commercial sector is often the battleground for an essential conflict between form, function and budget. In this environment, is it possible for owners to expect quality aesthetics without compromising cost and schedule? It is with single company design-build.

The key word is “single.” When all players — designers, engineers, contractors — are part of the same company, it engenders a results-oriented approach. It’s the ultimate tactical plan for optimizing both quality and aesthetics, rather than forcing a compromise. A fully integrated project delivery team ensures that all pieces are considered and maximum opportunities are explored from the start.

A Connection That’s Stronger Than a Contract

That doesn’t always happen with more traditional approaches. No matter the version of a “multicompany” project team, these teaming arrangements always carry the burden that each team member’s firm is forced to consider its individual interests, risks, profits and liabilities. This conflict frequently stands in the way of a combined, client-focused solution. And, sometimes, the client serves as the referee or is kept from ultimate best solutions.

With single company design-build for commercial buildings, it’s unnecessary to force a contractual connection, because all roles are fulfilled by one firm. This delivery strategy shifts the risk for design, construction, and schedule and cost controls from the owner to the design-build team.

When there is no separation between the designer and contractor, it opens innovative ways to consider the project’s phasing that can dramatically speed the schedule. It also provides broader design choices, earlier cost surety and a higher level of cost control.

Moving the Schedule to the Left

We recently worked on a small retail project that could not begin until the lease was signed. Without single company design-build, the project would have looked like this:

  • Design (three weeks)
  • Permit requested by contractor (one week to receive if no questions are asked)
  • Procurement of storefront required by client’s retail design standards (four weeks to delivery)
  • Job completed in eight weeks

With single company design-build, we could reorder tasks so the project looked like this:

  • Demo drawing and procurement order for storefront ready on day one (four weeks to delivery)
  • Permit requested on day two (one week)
  • Early purchase commitment enabled by single-source responsibility
  • Continually align design and construction elements during the build, drawing on the trust and understanding that comes when both roles are filled by long-term colleagues
  • Job completed in five weeks

On a single company design-build team, a conceptual plan emerges from the early and equitable input of each team member — with real-time input from vendors. It allows earlier technical decision-making and component buying. It reduces waste in team knowledge and duplicity in project leadership.

Ultimately, high-performing single company teams produce projects with the shortest schedules, lowest cost and highest quality. This approach helps give the project a running start that significantly impacts speed to market, shaving up to 30 percent off the schedule. If single company design-build makes such a notable difference on this small project, imagine the impact when the risks are higher and the decisions cannot be singly managed.

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Mike Fenske
Written by Mike Fenske

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