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Design Build

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Design Build - the mysterious project delivery methods that many don't seem to understand.  

The goal of this thread is to get insight from people experienced with this project delivery method.   Things like:

Managing client expectations.

Dealing with changes to the design. 

Coordinating disciplines on the fly. 

Dealing with the contractor.  

When dose Design Build make sense to use?

You know, all the easy stuff . . .


Full disclosure:  This thread was brought about by a recent experience of mine where a client thought that doing Design Build with a CMGC and GMP would save them a lot of money.  I think the clients idea was that by doing this it would be difficult for the design build team to ask for additional services do to client redesign.  

 
Oct 6, 22 11:12 am
SneakyPete

I've always thought having a design build firm would be great as long as everyone understood and agreed upon the level of quality they were going for. If the design team aims for perfect and the build team aims for sticking to the budget, it sounds miserable.

Oct 6, 22 11:45 am  · 
1  · 

I've never had a client understand this. It always seems to be done out misguided idea that the cost will be lower.

Oct 6, 22 11:47 am  · 
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proto

not being prime to the project owner is also problematic for leading the design [in fact, it basically means design isn't leading the process]

not many architects are used to or comfortable with being a consultant

Oct 6, 22 12:46 pm  · 
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You defiantly have to trust the contractor.

Oct 6, 22 12:49 pm  · 
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proto

is that in the contract?

Oct 6, 22 12:54 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

So we're talking about design built short term partnerships? Not design build firms? Ugh, why would one ever DO that?

Oct 6, 22 1:34 pm  · 
1  · 

We're talking about short term partnerships as a project delivery method. Not design build firms.

Oct 6, 22 3:25 pm  · 
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proto - it's not in a standard AIA contract. We'd always have a modified clause that spelled out how changes to the work could be made by the contractor.

However I've never been at a firm where design build was used were the architect and the contractor had along (decade plus) good history where they trusted each other. 

Oct 6, 22 3:27 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

Whoops.

Oct 6, 22 4:15 pm  · 
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No whoops. I didn't make that clear. A design build firm would be just fine.

Oct 6, 22 4:37 pm  · 
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proto

I'm with you, Chad...I should have put a winky on my contract comment...sorry about that! A lot of comments in here really aren't getting this delivery system. I do see how a very direct and long term relationship of multiple projects could allow this to work. As a one-off event, it will spark all the usual conflicts without the shared values & expectations of past partnerships, and subsequently a need for strong documentation...which becomes the achilles heel for speed.

Oct 10, 22 3:37 pm  · 
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Bench

I'm miffed as to how you end up having a CMGC on the project when its a design-build contract? Isn't the whole point to streamline down to just the two parties of client and D/Ber?

Oct 6, 22 12:50 pm  · 
1  · 

The general contractor acts as construction manager so technically there is still only two parties.

Oct 6, 22 5:15 pm  · 
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The main thing that I don't understand about Design Build is that it's supposed to reduce the schedule by 30% and the overall cost by 6%. 

The issue is that doing a CMGC with GMP and phased construction provides more cost savings and the same amount of reduction in schedule.  


Oct 6, 22 12:51 pm  · 
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proto

in my experience, issuing multiple packages is more time...doing the math, that compounds how much less time will get invested in the project design itself, impacting design complexity to a point where the feasibility of the proposed idea is simplified into a basic box [conceptually]

Oct 6, 22 12:58 pm  · 
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betonbrut

I think the DB evangelists make it a foregone conclusion that DB saves time and money. In my experience it CAN save time and money. I have completed many hard bid jobs, CMGC (CM at Risk) and Design Build. They all have value as delivery methods, the 'right' method depends on many factors. This is a great thread! I will be watching it closely.

Oct 6, 22 1:37 pm  · 
1  · 

Just to be clear - for bid packages I'm talking about a Fast Track project delivery method for commercial work. The packages are:

 Footings / Foundations

Structural Steel

Everything else.

Obviously FF and E are their own separate thing.

In the above situation I've never seen Design Build come in cheaper and faster than Fast Track.  I've also never seen Design Build have as good as quality.  I think the key is to get a GMP for the project.  Of course then bids are being done on early stage drawings.  

Oct 6, 22 1:56 pm  · 
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betonbrut

Not sure I fully understand your clarifications! But here is my $.02 on how DB could be faster and cheaper...

Oct 6, 22 2:00 pm  · 
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Oh just in response to proto's bid package comment. The packages on a Fast Track project aren't for bidding but in order to speed up the construction schedule.

Oct 6, 22 2:08 pm  · 
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proto

(not sure i used "bid" in my comment on multiple packages)

Oct 6, 22 2:44 pm  · 
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Sorry proto, I just wanted to make it clear that they weren't bid packages. I know a lot of people just assume that they are.

Oct 6, 22 3:24 pm  · 
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x-jla

Honestly, I doubt that it reduces cost or delivery time. The main benefit is that the designer (in designer-led design build) is deeply involved in the construction process. For instance, I personally tag each and every plant that we use, I have custom stuff fabricated, I am on site often and can tell my subs if something looks off directly. Imo the benefit is that communication and control is enhanced.

Oct 6, 22 11:26 pm  · 
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x-jla

And the client doesn’t have to be in between the contractors and designer.

Oct 7, 22 12:02 am  · 
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Design-Build is often marketed with the idea of it saving time and money. While it can do that, it is not an "always" proposition.

Oct 7, 22 2:34 am  · 
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x-jla - I think Design Build in landscaping is dramatically different than it is in the building construction. 

For example: in a Design Build Project Delivery Method for building construction the architect is hired by the GC. Not the client. In this Design Build situation the architect is not able to represent and look out for the clients best interests.  Now in a Design Build Firm it may be set up that the architect is the primary leader and runs everything. This isn't the case in a DBPDM.  

Oct 7, 22 10:03 am  · 
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x-jla

Rick, it’s marketed that way, but in residential anyway, especially high end, the selling point for clients is the convenience of only having to deal with one point of contact and the idea that the results are better.

Oct 7, 22 11:47 am  · 
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x-jla

Most d/b firms are not led by designers. Designer-led d/b is less common in architecture and landscape. This is because the threshold to add design for an established construction company is far lower than the threshold for a design firm to add construction.

Oct 7, 22 11:49 am  · 
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x-jla - the results may be faster and less costly but they are NEVER better from a design quality standpoint. 

 It's widely known and accepted that a Design Build project delivery method (different than a Design Build firm) produces a lower quality design.

Again, we're talking about a Design Build Project Delivery Method, NOT a Design Build Firm.  In a DBF things function in more of a design-assist type situation, not actual DBPDM. 

Oct 7, 22 11:51 am  · 
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x-jla

“NEVER” . That’s a pretty huge generalization. Are you aware Marmol Radziner?

Oct 7, 22 12:23 pm  · 
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x-jla

Design led design build is a completely different beast from a contractor-led design build firm. For residential scale anyways, it is the highest potential delivery method in terms of quality.

Oct 7, 22 12:25 pm  · 
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x-jla

 Again. You're talking about a Design Build Firm.

This thread is about the Design Build Project Delivery Method. 

The two are vastly different.  

In a DBPDM the general contractor hires the architect, not the owner. The general contractor is the architects client.  In a DBPDM the quality of the design is always lower quality.  This is because the general contractor has the ability to change things in the design as they see fit, not the owner.  The architect has to listen to the general contractor since they are the client. 

In a DBF the process can be lead by either the architect or the contractor.  It all depends on who runs the company. 


Oct 7, 22 12:27 pm  · 
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On a side note: 

Design Build Project Delivery Method: the contractor hires the architect. The contractor is the client and not the owner

Design Building Firm:  can be lead by either the architect or the contractor.  The owner typically has a contract with both the contractor and the architect since they are the same company

Design Assist: The contractor acts as the CMGC.  Typically the contractor provides a GMP for the project.  The contractor works with the architect early on to ensure the project stays on budget and on schedule.  The owner has separate contracts with the contractor and architect. 

Oct 7, 22 12:42 pm  · 
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x-jla

Oh ok. Not too familiar with that. In DBPDM the contractor is the only point of contact for the owner? That seems like a hard way to design.

Oct 7, 22 2:46 pm  · 
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x-jla, I agree with you on the point of a singular point of contact for design and construction. Design-Build processes varies to some degree based on project type. On one hand, it can be fast track but not always the case. Fast track can result in construction beginning before design is complete. Often resulting in phased submission of technical documents. 

However, design-build means the legal party for contracting architectural/design services with the client is also the same entity also contractual responsible to the client for construction services. Now, this entity doesn't always have to have an architect employed and can sub-contract the architectural services to an architect who will ultimately be stamping the drawings. This is legal in some states. 

I don't think design-build is all that different (in abstract principle) between the construction of buildings (commercial and residential) and work related to landscape design / landscape architecture... as landscape design can involve the construction of outbuildings and other site features. 

There are some books on design-build which can provide insight into the subject matter... which can be good for Chad to look at to further his understanding of design-build and how it varies as well as it compares to the process of some other types of project delivery. In fact the CM/GC in the project would be doing something similar to what I am looking into as well as designing. 

As I don't have a construction crew, it would be better to sub-out the work to people who are qualified for the work. This means, I need to know what qualified people are from unqualified individuals and how to gauge the quality of work because ultimately, as a design-build entity, I would be responsible for everything, not just design but also construction but I would have more control over the outcome and selection of consultants and subcontractors that will perform the work that I don't do myself. This means I'll still be responsible to the project client directly for the outcome. 

Great power comes with great responsibility. That adage is true. The more control and power you have over every stage of the project, the more responsibility you have, and the more you are responsible the more you are exposed to potential lawsuits so you need to make sure you have your insurance.

Oct 7, 22 4:34 pm  · 
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x-jla wrote: 

"Oh ok. Not too familiar with that. In DBPDM the contractor is the only point of contact for the owner? That seems like a hard way to design"

Correct. In DBPDM the contractor is the only point of contact and only contract with the owner.  Yeah it's a weird project delivery system.  I personally think that a design build firm can create great work.  The DBPDM though is just silly.  

Oct 10, 22 10:06 am  · 
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x-jla

I run a landscape design-build company.  We design-build everything outdoors.  I design all of my projects as a separate design fee under a separate design agreement.  There is no obligation to build.  I then offer a build bid.  Most clients choose to go forward with the build phase.  As part of the build agreement I include any changes to the design that may become necessary.  I sub out the majority of the work to a handful of very experienced subs that I’ve developed a good relationship with.  I occasionally do some very small things on my own with my 19 yo son…painting, fixing stuff, etc.  



Oct 6, 22 3:36 pm  · 
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For simple stuff that's how I've seen a lot of design build firms function. Makes sense. For architectural design build firms I've never seen it broken out like this. For buildings the belief is that a design build firm or delivery method will shorten the design phase as most things are figured out in the field. 

Medical construction design build firms has been pushing this project delivery method for hard the last 5 - 10 years. The thing is that medical projects have a great deal of up front programming and user group meetings. You can't shorten this phase of a medical project. If you do then you wind up with a large amount of changes during CA.

Oct 6, 22 4:36 pm  · 
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betonbrut

The company I work for has done hospital DB work and it is a very challenging project type to execute a DB contract well. I agree you can't shorten the programming and user group meetings. You can start to save time by starting construction before the design is completed. I don't think the overall saving of time is due to condensing either the design or construction phase, it is more about the ability to start construction earlier relative to the "end" of design.

Oct 6, 22 6:05 pm  · 
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It should be clear in understanding that separating the design fees from the construction services fee is different than establishing project timeline where some parts of construction and some parts of design overlaps. Phased submission of documents for permits facilitates fast tracking. As far as services being paid should consider these factors and the contractual terms, accordingly.

Oct 8, 22 2:38 am  · 
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Wood Guy

For 12 years I worked at a residential design/build firm, doing moderately high-end and occasionally very high-end work on the Maine coast. We had separate contracts for design and construction, and for a while they were fully separate companies, but we usually tried to get the design clients to go with us for construction as well. 

I now do design-only and try to work with builders I know and trust in what I call pseudo design/build, or could probably be called integrated project delivery, where they get involved early in the process. I used to sell the idea that with everything under one roof it simplified and sped up the process, and that fewer drawings were needed because our carpenters knew our standard details. As our projects got larger and more complex, and the company grew by 7X, that became less true, and the challenge became for the designers to keep up with the construction crews but not to be over-staffed. 

I think design/build can make sense for very small companies and smaller projects where the principal or a highly skilled employee can do both, but for most projects I think separating design and construction is easier to manage. 

Oct 6, 22 5:03 pm  · 
2  · 

What you're describing in you second paragraph is what we call a Fast Track project. The GC is chosen before design starts and is involved in the entire process.

Oct 6, 22 5:13 pm  · 
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Wood Guy

I thought fast track meant starting construction before design work was complete? Not that design work is often fully complete before breaking ground... But yeah, I advocate for the builder to charge for and provide a preconstruction agreement, usually at the end of schematic design, and they help with pricing and sometimes design suggestions throughout the process. It's faster than design-bid-build; the builder usually starts just as design work is wrapping up.

Oct 6, 22 5:17 pm  · 
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curtkram

If the client brings in a contractor to help review drawings with the design team but not under design-build or CMR contract, I would call that design-assist.

Oct 7, 22 9:14 am  · 
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CMR - is that Construction Manager at Risk? I think we call that CMGC here, Construction Manager General Contractor. The difference is that the client isn't bringing in a contractor to help review the drawings. 

 I think you're correct curtkram that this CMGC / GMP is a design-assist process. 

 The contractor and architect team up and go after the project together. 

The owner still has two contracts though, one with the architect and one with the contractor.  As such the GC is responsible for the construction and the architect for the design.  We work together to keep costs down and the schedule on track.  The architect is solely responsible for the design and represents the clients interests though.  

Oct 7, 22 9:53 am  · 
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bowling_ball

Chad, that's how many of our projects work. We call it Design Assist and have been doing it very successfully with one CM for almost two decades. It can be a little confusing but if the relationship is solid, we've found it be a good thing in that it reduces problems during construction. Often the CM will hire the engineers in that scenario as well, which removes a lot of the liability for the architects.

Oct 7, 22 12:29 pm  · 
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BB - we do design assist as well for the majority of our educational projects.  Like you it's with one GC who also acts as the CM. It works very well on projects with a tight schedule and fixed fees.. We still hire our own engineers though. We collaborate with the GC early on to assure the project budget and schedule are me. We have the final say in all of the design decisions though.

Oct 7, 22 12:38 pm  · 
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CMR can mean Construction Manager at Risk. I usually see it spelled as CM@R (@ for at).

Oct 7, 22 4:38 pm  · 
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There is also something called CM as Adviser or CMa.

Oct 7, 22 4:40 pm  · 
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curtkram

that's how the aia documents break them up. cmr is where the contractor has pre-construction services and then does the gc thing. cma has pre-construction, but then you get a different contractor. with the contractor involved early in design and a GMP, they have skin in it and change orders should be reduced. design-build has the contractor solely responsible, so there will be even fewer change orders (unless the owner really wants to keep adding to the project). i don't know why anyone would want to do CMA. under CMR, if the contractor says precast costs a dollar, they're held to that. the CMA contractor can say whatever they want then walk away. all they're going to do is run their mouth and try to prove why their fee is so high. design-bid-build doesn't work.

Oct 7, 22 4:56 pm  · 
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bennyc

I am a design builder. I have two companies, one for architectural services and one for general contracting services, as technically design build is illegal in New York State and many other states. A lot of client like the idea of me being their only point of contact and the advantage is working with a budget and sticking to it. I also like the control, and being the master builder on the project. Also being the architect as well as the builder lets me be agile on site, can make changes without losing time on revisions and coordination. 

Oct 6, 22 7:46 pm  · 
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Actually Design Build isn't illegal in many states. Only Iowa and North Dakota don't allow it on public projects. Every other state, including New York will allow it on some types of public projects if they are under a certain construction cost. This is due to how government jobs typically require a set cost or GMP and Design Build normally doesn't provide that.

Oct 7, 22 9:59 am  · 
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In Design Build, the CM can be a GC and sub out most if not all of the hands on construction work to subcontractors while overseeing the project outcome. Also the DB entity can also sub-out the design/architectural services. However, the DB entity would be contractually responsible to the project client for architectural/design services and the construction services. While the architect or designer may still possess responsibility for their individual work but in that case, the DB entity is the architect/designer & subcontractors' client and because of that, the architectural design consultant and subcontractors are not under the privity of contract with the project client but they are to the design-build entity. The DB entity is responsible contractually to the project client.

Oct 7, 22 4:45 pm  · 
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bennyc

From the nys education department point of view, which is the authority controlling architectural practice, design build is looked as illegal. Architectural services have to be clearly separated and provided only by permissible forms of practice. But this is just legal jargon and it just means that you really need two entities to provide both services. What design build is to me, is having one team be the designer and builder on project. This is what I do myself. I am the architect and the builder on the project. I think there is an advantage to this as you can control budget and time if you are both parties. Its not "cheaper" to do things this way, but its more integrated and I think it does save time and money on coordination. And Im strictly speaking on small scale residential and commercial projects, without too many consultants on the project. 

Oct 8, 22 8:17 am  · 
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While that is true especially as one singular entity but design-build exists in varied form and the contract is adapted for each variation. Where I am, architects and building designers can also provide construction services with the contractor license. Likewise, a contractor (typically in a design-build arrangement) may offer architectural services if they sub-out the architectural services but this sub-out is not often bidded out but selected based on the working relationship and qualities. It isn't always cheaper. I would not market design-build as being fast and cheaper. It's not always the case. It canbe butnot always. I'd aim for quality of the team put together for the project and a singular point of contact for clients. Like you, I'd work on similar type and scale of projects although I'm not in NY.

Oct 8, 22 2:12 pm  · 
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Rick - I believe that you're mistaken about design build being in various forms. The only form of design build from a legal and contractual standpoint is a GC that hires an architect to do the building design. The other similar project delivery methods you've been referring to in this thread are not design build.

Oct 10, 22 6:48 pm  · 
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If I was licensed as both an architect and as a contractor, what type of Design-Build would I be? Not all states even requires a contractor's license for "General Contracting" although there are specific licenses for certain disciplines like electricians, and plumbers. For example: In Colorado, general contractor licensing is not state-wide but obtained at a more local-level jurisdiction such as municipality.

Oct 10, 22 7:38 pm  · 
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It would depend on what type of services you where providing.

You'd be a design assist if you had separate contracts for design and constructing.

You'd be a design build if you had one contract for both the construction and design.  You'd need to have two companies.  One a contractor who would hire your second company, an architect.  This isn't allowed in most states as it creates legal issues and conflicts of interests.  Basically it makes it easy for said company to rip off the client.  

Oct 11, 22 10:04 am  · 
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Fair point. You are right about the variations in the state laws and the legal environment (including potential legal issues). Now, contract-wise, there are various contract sets on the matters: AIA, DBIA, AGC, EJCDC, etc. Technically, there is more than one contract form used even in Design-build and that is the contracts to subcontracted parties. The main point in DB is there is a singular contract between the owner and the entity (formal business entity [Design Build firm], and informal joint-ventures... hence the DB Team approach you mentioned elsewhere here) with regard to design and construction services. IPD can be described either as a separate delivery method or under the design-build paradigm of project delivery methods where it's a step further in the integration than integrated design-build which is very very close to IPD. The intersections of project delivery methods and the vast array of contractual arrangements can be quite a complicated subject matter. Now, whether you need two separate entities, depends on the state, though. I do agree with you on the potential for COIs and the potential for ripping off the client in such COI issues unless the matters are addressed properly and ethics are maintained properly.

Oct 11, 22 2:55 pm  · 
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x-jla

There are many benefits to using a separate contract for design and another one for build services. For one, a design fee is much less than a build fee. It’s way easier to that to a client who does not yet know you. Then, by the time the build contract comes along, they already know you and trust you. It’s less risky for clients

Oct 12, 22 1:25 pm  · 
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x-jla

*to sell that

Oct 12, 22 1:26 pm  · 
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I agree with you x-jla. It also protects the clients interests.  


The thing is that having separate contracts for design and construction isn't design build. Even if the contracts are with the same company.

Oct 12, 22 1:35 pm  · 
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luvu

D&C contract in the region that I'm practicing in ( and in the UK ) is a norm if not a standard practice for mid-large projects with PPPs ( Public Private Partnerships ..think airport, rails, infrastructure ) is also common. And I believe it is totally different from D&C in North America ( thanks Chad fro bringing this up / really want to know )

Typically,  architects work for a client up until tender/biding then the contract get " novated" to the builder who's been awarded the project. 

From then on , you are contractually under the builder...and the fun bits start...

I'll chime in later on ...


Oct 7, 22 12:36 am  · 
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betonbrut

Architects would provide more value to their owners if they had a better understanding of the contract between the owner and the GC. From reading this thread, do you all ever read the contracts your owners are having their GCs sign? The lack of basic understanding of contracts and delivery methods in this thread is surprising.

As an architect working for a GC, we always review the Architect’s contract so we can better align our contract with the Architect’s. This is more important in our private work. (We are a large commercial GC). In our public work, it is less of an issue as the A/E and GC contracts are more standardized and generally, better aligned.

As someone stated earlier, the only reason the GC is the lead in a DB delivery (again, not a DB firm) is due to insurance, bonding, etc. The A/E fees are a very small percentage of the overall project cost. The cost of construction is typically the majority. Follow the dollars.

Now, is a design-build delivery method faster, slower, cheaper, more expensive, leads to great design or poor design, the answer is yes… it can lead to any of those. Claiming it always leads to any one of these shows a very limited understanding of how the profession (both design and construction) functions in practice.   


Oct 10, 22 10:20 am  · 
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You need to keep in mind that several of the people responding here aren't involved in commercial architecture. I do only commercial architecture I I can assure you that I've always read the client / contractor contracts. In fact we require to have a copy of those contracts.

Oct 10, 22 12:37 pm  · 
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betonbrut wrote: 

"Now, is a design-build delivery method faster, slower, cheaper, more expensive, leads to great design or poor design, the answer is yes… it can lead to any of those. Claiming it always leads to any one of these shows a very limited understanding of how the profession (both design and construction) functions in practice. "

I would argue that a DBPDM always leads to a lower quality building.  Please understand the quality of the building isn't necessarily poor quality but it's certainly lower quality than it could be with DBPDM.  At least that's been my experience over the last 18 years.  

I think the main reasons for this is that the architect isn't protecting the clients interests and the lack of coordination due to assembly and material substitutions that can be made by the GC.    

     

Oct 10, 22 12:45 pm  · 
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betonbrut

There are recent 4 year college graduates with degrees in Construction Management that would laugh at some posts in this thread. But then, maybe that is why those entry level jobs are $75K/yr. compared to what entry level architects make out of school. Even architects that join larger more commercial firms. I find the lack of understanding on how projects are delivered to be the main issue. Residential or commercial isn't really my main concern. But to your point, the realities of any delivery method is different for residential (primarily single family residential) and commercial. My experience and point of view is exclusively from the commercial side both as an architect and as a general contractor.

Oct 10, 22 12:51 pm  · 
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x-jla

Inside baseball has always bored me to death. I know how I do things. I don’t really care how others do things. My system works well for the type of work I do. I don’t see a need to understand the broader general norms of the industry. It’s limiting imo. Craft your delivery method to garner the best results…period. That’s all that matters.

Oct 10, 22 1:00 pm  · 
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betonbrut - I understand that. I also understand that regardless of the project delivery method if things aren't managed correctly there will be issues. I've simply found that in a DBPDM things are more complex and regardless of how good the project management is there are still issues that could of been avoided if using say a Design Assist project delivery method. 

On a side note: I wouldn't use the opinions of four recent grads with a degree in CM or their salary as proof of competency. I've worked with plenty of fresh CM's from very good schools that had no idea how an actual project works. Also there are plenty of recent architectural grads making over $75k a year.  Finally a sample size of four people is really small.  ;)

Oct 10, 22 1:03 pm  · 
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x-jla

What’s most important is that you craft your delivery method to remove as much uncertainty as possible for the client, while also allowing the greatest degree of pleasant surprise.

Oct 10, 22 1:06 pm  · 
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At most your clients should only impressed with how much more they like the finished building in person than what they thought the would.  Other than that your clients shouldn't be surprised.  If they are you're not doing a good enough job.  

Now back to discussing the Design Build Project Delivery Method. 

Oct 10, 22 1:11 pm  · 
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x-jla

Well, if you deliver so

Oct 10, 22 2:06 pm  · 
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x-jla

*something that they can themselves can envision then you’re not doing a good job. The end result should exceed their expectations as expectations for contractors is pretty low among the public

Oct 10, 22 2:07 pm  · 
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Not to break off into a different tangent - you should be able to communicate what the design will be. That design could be beyond what a client can envision. The end result should not be a surprise to the client. If it is then your communication sucks. The client should be impressed with the end result, not surprised.

Oct 10, 22 2:21 pm  · 
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x-jla

Oh, thanks for the English lesson.

Oct 10, 22 2:32 pm  · 
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"I would argue that a DBPDM always leads to a lower quality building. " On one hand I agree with your sentiment and essence of your point. On the other hand, it doesn't have to be. Design Build can be GC-lead or Architect/Designer-lead. In any case, it can even be brilliant where the architect is also a builder that is both a great designer but also very adept in the crafts. Perhaps, it isn't one person but a project team where everyone is on the same page with the client's interest in mind and highly adept coordination. That's the method of construction that has been the hallmark of great architecture until the schism of the architect and builder being split into two separate silos of professions and becoming antagonistic to each other. It is after a century or 2 or 3 that we are relearning the processes of such a cohesive design and build process that can be efficient, of high quality, and so forth. It can be better than what the divided architect / builder professions can achieve. It is that it is relatively new to the living profession of architecture and construction after a fairly long time where the profession of design and construction was split into their own silos and neither side wants to work with each other, except to the absolute minimum.

Oct 10, 22 2:47 pm  · 
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Richard - We're talking about a Design Build Project Delivery Method, not a Design Build Firm. 

In a DBPDM:

  •  the architect has the contract with the GC, NOT the owner.
  • The owner has a contract with the GC, NOT the architect. 
  • The project is lead by the GC, NOT the architect.


In a Design Build Firm

  • The project can be lead by either the GC or the architect
  • There can be separate contracts for the design with the architect and a contract with the GC for construction

I think a lot of people confuse a DBPDM with a Design Build Firm.  They can be very different. 

Oct 10, 22 2:53 pm  · 
1  · 
x-jla

I didn’t know that there was a difference. I always assumed that DB firms handle DB projects, and when they are handled by non -DB firms, an architect and GC form a sort of joint venture where they act as a DB firm on a project to project basis. Question: in this DBPDM senario how is the gc not in violation of architectural license laws. There seems to be some thin ice legally

Oct 10, 22 3:14 pm  · 
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The GC has hired the architect. The GC is the architects client. There is no violation of architectural licensing laws. There is no thin ice legally.

Oct 10, 22 4:13 pm  · 
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x-jla

As I posted in our previous discussion but with a bit more clarification.  As you can see the design build concept is a bit confusing and often people lump or interchange all three of the methods below into one.  

Design Build Project Delivery Method

  • the contractor hires the architect. The contractor is the client and not the owner.  
  • The architect is responsible for the building meeting all life safety and zoning, ect.  
  • The GC has final say in all other design decisions since they are the client.  

Design Building Firm:  

  • can be lead by either the architect or the contractor.  
  • if the owner has separate contracts for the design and construction then it's not actually Design Build.  In this case it's more of a Design Assist.

Design Assist

  • The contractor acts as the CMGC.  
  • Typically the contractor provides a GMP for the project.  
  • The contractor works with the architect early on to ensure the project stays on budget and on schedule.  T
  • he owner has separate contracts with the contractor and architect. 


Oct 10, 22 4:21 pm  · 
1  · 

I think it's a terminology issue here. What you are describing is one or two of the three types of Contractor-led Design-Build. One known as Contractor led Design-Build with Architect is subcontracted. The other being Design-Build IPD method. (Integrated Project Delivery). Design-Build is the project delivery method that commonly comes in 6 variations. 3 for contractor-led and 3 for architect/designer-led. It could be that DBPDM is simply a local/regional term. Design-Build firm just means a team (whether that be a joint-venture or it can be either an architect or a construction contractor). 

Design-Build firm does not require an architect to be in-house but that is a common way. The DB project delivery method is distinguished from the design-bid-build project delivery method model in that the 'bidding' cycle is eliminated and the party who have primary contract with the project client subcontracts the subcontractors that may be performing the actual construction work and may also sub-contract the architectural/engineering consultants and they can also be the be architect-led or contractor-led. 

The reference I have used in understanding this is available from DBIA such as this: 

https://dbia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Primers-Choosing-Delivery-Method.pdf


Oct 10, 22 6:33 pm  · 
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It's just that your terminology is not something I have heard of and it can be just the terminology used in your locality that is somewhat idiosyncratic. I'm not saying you are wrong. It just might be different terminology used where I am and that's just the way it is.

Oct 10, 22 6:37 pm  · 
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I would look at an actual AIA contract and not a marketing brochure. 

DBPDM is not a local term. It's not a term at all. It's just a way to disguise between a design build partnership for a project and a design build firm.  As you can see from this thread many people assume that all design build is done with a design build firm lead by an architect.  That is not the case.  

DBIA dose have a good breakdown of the several types of project delivery methods.  Even they define a design build project delivery method as a single contract between the owner and a design build team.  The leader of the design build team is the general contractor.  If an architect leads the team then it's not design build.  Hence why some areas call it Design Assist or Integrated Project Delivery.  They mean the same thing when you look at an actual contract between the involved parties.  

Oct 10, 22 6:38 pm  · 
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I have more than one source on this but some of my sources are also actual books which I do not have a link to a digital version of the books but here: "The Architect's Guide to Design-Build Services" and "Design-Build: Planning through Development". Here is a couple diagrams for Design-Build arrangements:

and


Oct 10, 22 6:50 pm  · 
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The diagrams illustrates the 6 common variations of design-build arrangements in the two broad categories of "contractor-led" and "architect-led".

Oct 10, 22 6:53 pm  · 
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Contract language is an interesting beast. It's true that architect's can't directly offer to be primary contractor and sub-out construction services per se (with some exceptions) in a number of states. They would normally have to have a contractor's license as well. In my locale, the contractor license is issued to the business when they have a qualifying person as RMI. Construction contracting laws varies greatly in many states.

Oct 10, 22 7:01 pm  · 
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In any of the scenarios of "design-build", everything regarding the quality of a project comes down to the parties in the 'design-build team', and how they work together to deliver the best quality project within the constraints of the project. It is likely that a contractor-led project where the architect is sub-contracted, that the project may be of so so quality because of the disconnect in communication with the project client. Sometimes, the architect is not in direct communication with the project client and only gets the information that is passed down by the contractor. That can be an issue. In other cases, the GC could have their architect and engineering consultants "in the room" when having meetings with the client. It comes down to the actual working relationship and the little details... even though there isn't a direct contractual relationship with the project client. It's the ethos used in delivering the services. On one hand, you can argue, a happy project client is good for all parties. The primary contractor could require all the parties to be "in the room" when decisions are made so everyone is on the same page and able to work as a team to best deliver for the project client. I distinguish project client as the principal client (owner) from that of the technical contractual client in the legal parameter of privity of contract. So for the subcontracted architect, their contractual client is the GC/CM, Design-Build entity-prime contractor, while the project client is the client of the Design-Build entity/prime contractor or GC/CM. Ground rules have to be set and enforced that the project client doesn't go around their prime contractor and directly dictate changes to the sub-contractors/consultants. Some clients can be troublesome that way.

Oct 10, 22 7:19 pm  · 
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I'm not going to argue with you Richard. Look at the standard AIA contract for design build.

You may have more than one source.  I have nearly two decades in the actual profession that directly contradicts your sources.  I think the contradiction is that the concept of Design Build has been constantly 'tweaked' since it's adaptation in the late 70's.  These tweeks have created some unquiet projects delivery methods but they're not Design Build. 

  • IPD
  • Design Assist (aka Design Build Firms)
  • CMGC
  • CMR
  • Fast Track

The above project delivery methods may share aspects of the Design Build methods but they are not Design Build.  

Oct 11, 22 9:59 am  · 
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First AIA contracts is AIA contracts not a real standard by any means. No point in arguing what is just semantics when there is various models and adaptions and some of it due to adapting to varying legal environments. In Colorado, there isn't a state-wide general contractor licensing system but licensing at local jurisdiction. Colarado also does not have an architectural firm registration law. In Oregon, the contractor licensing is by a state agency (Construction Contractors Board). 

In general, the contractor license is issued to the business entity. However, a qualified person has to be the RMI. Now, for a person to be qualified as an RMI, they have to undergo the 16-hour pre-exam training and then take an exam. There can be more than one RMI in a contracting business. Oregon has an architectural firm registration requirement where they are required to be registered with the Oregon Board of Architect Examiners. There is an exception in the law where a contractor can offer architectural services in an arrangement where the architecture is a subcontracted consultant and would be the architect responsible for performing the architectural services. This allows and facilitates "Design-Build" services contracts. 

If a Design-Build entity has architects in-house in the ownership of the business, then the design-build entity can also register as an architectural firm and is literally both a construction contracting business and architectural firm.... hence a design-build entity that can be architect led. The RMI can even be an architect. Sometimes, they don't have architects in-house so it would be subcontracted. They would have to meet the requirements of ORS 671.030 (2)(g): 

(g) A construction contractor licensed under ORS chapter 701 from offering services constituting the practice of architecture if: (A) The services are appurtenant to construction services to be provided by the contractor; (B) The services constituting the practice of architecture are performed by an architect registered under ORS 671.010 to 671.220 or provided by a firm registered under ORS 671.010 to 671.220; and (C) The offer by the construction contractor discloses in writing that the contractor is not an architect and identifies the registered architect who will perform the services constituting the practice of architecture or the firm that will provide the architectural services.

Then there are other laws outside of licensing relating to project procurement that varies from state to state. So in short, there are varied legal environments and practices in the real world where terminologies are kind of loosey goosey in how the terms are used. AIA contracts doesn't really define an industry standard terminology for various project delivery methods. There we have a crux of issues... what's really the industry standard terminology for the various project delivery methods?


Oct 11, 22 1:29 pm  · 
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I agree, no arguing needed. It would be easier if in practice, the terminology used are consistent and standardized. I agree there has been constant tweaks and there has been variations of project delivery methods within the umbrella of "design-build" where the term design-build refers to project delivery without a bidding cycle. That is where the term in principle originates with a project delivery where there is not a bidding cycle like in "design-bid-build". There's many variations of project delivery from design-bid-build, traditional design-build to IPD being a derivative of design-build but taking the integrated approach further... taking the IDB (Integrated Design-Build) a step further to the IPD. You could say IPD as its own project delivery method but I say it is a derivative in the broad design-build category taking the integration to the most extreme. A little brochure from DBIA regarding traditional DB, IDB, and IPD. The permutations of the contractual arrangements and project delivery nuances, leads to a lot of nuance and not so clear crisp lines between types of project delivery.

Oct 11, 22 2:15 pm  · 
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https://www.hansonbridgett.com/-/media/Files/Publications/2017-06-moving-from-design-build.pdf

Sorry, it wasn't from DBIA but the brochure/article I was referring to.

Oct 11, 22 2:34 pm  · 
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For people who use a DBPDM - the one where the GC is in charge and the architect has been hired by the GC.  How do you manage client expectations when it comes to quality of design? 

Oct 10, 22 2:59 pm  · 
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proto

Two things that need to be coordinated/managed:

Ambition of client for level of finish & expected level of design need to be clearly communicated. Owner & designer need to have a shared understanding of this.

Early internal team cost models during concepts will help guide internal decisions so that scope of ambition is more precise prior to presenting to the client. Depending on scale of schedule, some discussion of pricing fluctuation needs to be discussed openly.

Oct 10, 22 3:42 pm  · 
2  · 

I've had issues with this. 

 The GC doesn't want to come out and say that the client will be getting a lower quality building. The client wants to have a GMP (guaranteed maximum price) early on. 

It seems that the owner is always disappointed with the quality of the project and ends up eating up all of the contingency to 'upgrade' the quality. In the end this may reduce the total project schedule by a month or two but doesn't reduce the cost. In fact it costs more. Very frustrating. :(

Oct 10, 22 4:29 pm  · 
1  · 
betonbrut

That is totally frustrating! I am a big believer in target value design as a method of defining quantity and quality at the early conceptual phase. As the GC, my job is to facilitate that conversation between the owner and architect and supply realistic unit costs given the desired quality as defined by either the architect or the owner. It may result in difficult conversations around quality and cost, but better to have those done before too much design has occurred. Avoids the frustration you have described, or at least limits that frustration. I also find that if we set realistic expectations early and then meet or exceed them through the design and construction process, owners are ‘happier’ than if costs dictate changes late in design or during construction. Separately, you mentioned an early GMP. An owner that wants a GMP too early needs to understand the amount of contingency that needs to be built into that early GMP. While it is nice to lock in your costs as early as possible, some projects cannot afford to shift that risk to the GC or DB team too early. That is especially true with current supply chain issues and inflation/escalation. It is a difficult conversation, but a GC that understands that specific market and building type should be able to navigate that without too much trouble.

Oct 10, 22 5:39 pm  · 
2  · 

I think that any good GC would agree with you. Unfortunately there are clients; especially in the medical field; that only focus on the initial cost estimate. For example: we did exactly what you've described. We provided honest and realistic costs that allowed the owner to see a range of costs depending on how far they went with a renovation. The client went with a DB team (not a DB firm) that had a lower construction cost estimate.

Oct 10, 22 6:10 pm  · 
2  · 
betonbrut

One of the most common issues I have encountered with a PDB delivery is the Owner not understanding their own contract and benefits of that delivery method. Sounds like you did the right/responsible thing and the Owner has opted to over-value price. Maybe a good one not to have been selected for!

Oct 11, 22 12:13 pm  · 
2  · 

I'm thinking the same thing betonbrut. Still sucks to have spent all that time on a proposal and interview.

Do you have any tips for helping the Owner to understand their own contract and benefits of a DB delivery method? 

Oct 11, 22 12:16 pm  · 
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betonbrut

For all my DB pursuits, I consider two initial things, first, which architect should I partner with to chase it and second, do I think this is going to be a good owner or not! DB pursuits can take more work than a typical one, so deciding to chase it or not is a more carefully considered question. One nuance we haven't discussed yet is whether this was a fixed fee DB or what we call progressive DB. In fixed fee, the team is submitting roughly 20% design with a 100% cost. In progressive, it is more about project approach and we typically are only submitting the DB % fee. The assumption is we negotiate the design fees and preconstruction fees and then set a GMP at some point in the future. I personally prefer the progressive DB approach as it eliminates the low cost up front issue and leads to a more integrated team; Owner, Architect, GC.

Oct 11, 22 12:36 pm  · 
3  · 
proto

In some ways, the discussion applies beyond design/build insofar as each party in the conversation is trying to maximize their own value without providing the necessary compromise buffer to allow the three concerns to balance out at a compromise position with enough positives in each of the three columns to satisfy all that a truly good solution exists. [owner, designer, builder] It's imperative that the parties aren't exclusively selfish in their goals.

And, of course, only measuring value in dollars ends up with a project that only makes sense in dollars when the project lives in a world where value is the experience of that building over time.

How many times have we needed to ask how a dollar decision makes sense for the owner living with the space over time vs a short term solution to meeting a construction goal (budget, time, sub-contractor convenience, completion, inspection, just-get-it-done, etc)?

Oct 11, 22 1:30 pm  · 
2  · 
betonbrut

Totally agree. I tend to start conversations on projects over the concept of values, priorities, or goals. These can be qualitative or quantitative, ideally both. Generally, every owner has a budget they don't want to exceed and usually one goal is stay on budget! As a GC, I do tend to quantify risk in dollars, but that is because contracts are written that way... I am never afraid to talk about financial impacts based on decisions as it is easier to have those discussions in the moment than later when the project is over-budget.

Oct 11, 22 2:44 pm  · 
3  · 

I tend to always talk about the financial implications of decision that clients make. Even if the client doesn't want to.

Oct 11, 22 5:40 pm  · 
3  · 

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