The Design-Build Process Facilitates Successful Renovation Projects

The collaborative nature of design-build allows contractors to have input about systems used in a facility.The collaborative nature of design-build allows contractors to have input about systems used in a facility.

The success of a renovation project hinges on taking a design for what a building can become and executing that vision through the construction process to transform the building into its new form. Uniting the design and construction efforts into one unit creates a seamless process and removes the disconnect between the design vision and the constructed reality that can ruin a renovation project. This is an important objective of the design-build method of building construction. Design-build is a project-delivery system used in conjunction with a single contractual entity for design and construction. Design-build minimizes risk for facility owners and reduces the construction schedule by overlapping the design and construction phases of a project.

The design-build process offers many advantages compared to using the traditional design-bid-build process for facility renovation or new construction because design-build brings organization to complex and fast-track projects. This is an important benefit for retrofit and renovation projects, which are typically more complicated than new construction. In addition, design-build saves facility owners money and time compared to traditional construction delivery methods.

A former factory in Dallas is being reborn as a concert venue using design-build.

A former factory in Dallas is being reborn as a concert venue using design-build.


For example, “Project Delivery Systems: How They Impact Efficiency and Profitability in the Buildings Sector”, a SmartMarket report published in 2014 by New York-based McGraw Hill Construction, surveyed architects and contractors who have worked with multiple project delivery systems, including design-build. Of those surveyed, 48 percent reported cost savings from 5 to 9 percent, and 19 percent of respondents reported saving 10 percent or more using design-build. Meanwhile, the Design-Build Institute of America, Washington, D.C., reports an average cost savings using design-build of 6 percent on its “Design-Build Fact Sheet”.

One reason for this is that with a single point of responsibility, valuable input regarding constructability, material usage and overall logistics can be incorporated into the design document. Furthermore, when the designer is also responsible for construction, the related costs—whether for materials or design fees—tend to be taken into account earlier in the process.

Time saved in a construction job is also money saved and design-build accomplishes this because construction can begin before all the design work is complete. Of course, using design-bid-build, the design must be done before the project can go out for bid, slowing down the process. Design-build projects are completed in 10 to even 30 percent less time. Not only does the overlap of design and construction save time, but the process is more efficient. Having one firm involved from start to finish adds an inherent efficiency and diminishes the chances for details to fall through the cracks, which can create delays and cost overruns. Owners appreciate that a faster completion means the building is ready for occupancy and can start delivering ROI sooner.

COLLABORATION IS an important component of design-build, which creates an integrated team, allowing for more open communication and the opportunity to even improve the design process. Design-build establishes a culture of integration and collaboration between parties during the earliest phases of a project. With the design and construction teams working as one, there is increased flexibility to address changes and adapt to unforeseen conditions as the project commences. Construction projects always include challenges, but with design-build there is no finger pointing. Instead, the team comes together to work on solutions. As a result, there are usually fewer change orders using design-build and implementing changes that do occur is dramatically simplified.

Facility owners specifically appreciate the contractual benefits provided by design-build. Remember, the design-build team works under a single contract with the project owner for both design and construction services. Using the traditional design-bid-build approach means owners must deal with two contracts: one for design and then another for construction. This results in additional administrative and legal work, as well as related costs. Often, with the traditional approach, the information provided in the design documentation is insufficient to bid and build the project. This results in disputes, claims and change orders. Suddenly, owners find themselves in the middle of the finger pointing between the designer and contractor. Owners who are caught between these disputing parties are at greater legal risk and can find themselves in what is sometimes called a “liability gap.”

PHOTOS: C1S Group

About the Author

Aaron Liles
Aaron Liles, LEED AP, is director of construction for C1S Group, a full-service professional engineering and construction firm based in Dallas.

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