design build

How to Shift from DBB to Design-Build

Drive-thru:

  • Design-build is one of several construction project delivery methods that involves the builder in the design process.
  • When you’re ready to transition from Design-Bid-Build to DB, you’ll need the right company culture and the right team.
  • Design-build relies heavily on collaboration, and it will require you to rethink how you choose projects and to fine-tune your scheduling strategies.

Design-bid-build, or DBB, is gradually losing its dominance as the most-used delivery method for construction projects. It is giving way to methods that rely on collaboration and greater involvement of the builder in the design aspects. The biggest challenger to DBB is design-build (DB).

Here are strategies you can use in making the transition from DBB to DB.

Design-Build Trajectory

McGraw HIll’s 2014 Smart Market Report on project delivery systems revealed 63 percent of owners, 56 percent of architects, and 68 percent of contractors expected an increase in projects using design-build by 2017, while just 3 percent, 6 percent, and 3 percent respectively thought DB use would decrease. According to the RSMeans Consulting report done a year later for the Design-Build Institute of America, the design-build delivery method averaged 38 percent market share over the 10-year period ending in 2014. And, in the project value above $10 million, DB had 51 percent of the market share.

Design-bid-build uses separate contracts for design and construction, while design-build puts both functions under one contract. Hence, DB reduces gaps in knowledge between design and construction, helping them to operate together like a well-oiled machine. As a contractor, design-build should make your work easier and more predictable because you get involved in the design. In fact, in the McGraw Hill survey, contractors were the biggest supporters of this model among all project participants; they preferred DB as it allowed them to lead the project.

An American Institute of Architects’ survey found that contractors led more than half of DB projects, while firms with both design and construction in-house led 26 percent. Interestingly, design firms led only 11 percent, while joint ventures—five percent and developers—only four percent.

Study, Observe, Learn

Lack of familiarity is cited as the most prominent roadblock to adopting DB, so whatever you can do to school yourself in the process and the philosophy will smooth your transition.

Foster a DB Team

Since DB is very much a team effort, you can’t afford to try to go it alone. Begin early by fostering mature relationships with the right subs and suppliers. They will need to be flexible, passionate about their roles in projects, have excellent collaboration skills, and have the financial and managerial skills to handle the unique risks posed by DB. It’s also crucial to be willing to train and keep training your partners as well as keep empowering them to bring new ideas to the table.

Prepare Yourself for Oversight

Survey results from the McGraw Hill source above revealed that one of the main obstacles to DB is too few checks and balances. If you can avoid even the appearance that you are operating too autonomously as the project lead, you can save yourself the pain of too much scrutiny or even suspicion. Plan how you will keep stakeholders informed and set up your own checks and balances on quality and critical-path activities.

Become a Schedule Expert

Contractors who know DB like it because it allows them to reduce the project schedule once construction gets underway. All the upfront work on design pays off by reducing mistakes, rework, and changes. That makes schedules more predictable—but only if the contractor has a firm grip on scheduling and on blending the combined schedules of all the players. Contractors transitioning to DB should make sure their scheduling practices are mature and that they have strong schedule controls.

Choose the Right Project

There are many ways to structure design-build contracts. However, if you want to strike out on DB successfully, you need to do so on a project where you have experience with the materials and methods. DB makes it easier to build because you get involved during design, but if your forte is wood, taking on steel construction while also learning DB is likely adding too much to the learning curve.

It is also good to get involved in the design before more than 20 percent of it is done. Finally, if you can create a culture in your company and among participants that rewards collaboration and encourages communication, you’re sure to benefit.

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