Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Design & Build Part 2: So, Is Design and Build the Solution?

Image: MS Office
Keywords: architects, blueprints, construction, contractors, developers
Is Design & Build the solution to traditional construction woes? Well it does have its advantages. First, to be clear... Design & Build means that the designer is also the general contractor who 'does' the project. Being a one-stop offering, it maximizes time efficiency, reduces changes and cost over runs. The contractor is involved from the beginning, provides the initially cost estimates, establishes project budget constraints, hires the designers or architects and is responsible for the cost planning and construction. That last point is important... it means that they don't increase the prices in mid-project, manage the project scope so they delivery on-time and on-budget and don't leave the project for another until the job is done.

Less stress, less time, certainly, but less money as well? To contrast the two, the beauty of the traditional process is that we feel we have a choice once the bids are out. We can shop and compare. Right? Not really. Quotes are usually provided with a degree of latitude so that pricing is not exact even the project goes off perfectly without any changes or snags along the way. As soon as we change or add things or if any problems come along, the price goes up in amounts that are often substantial. Also, we may not agree with the hourly billing rates and are almost always surprised by how long it takes to make and do any changes. The result of this is more cost over run. And, most annoyingly, some less reputable contractors seem to take an age to do what seem to be really simple things or they don’t come back for days or weeks when they have committed they would. This is because they are working on multiple projects for multiple clients by multiple designers - every one gets stretched a little, but the paying customer most. So many people have been at the receiving end of that phenomenon and this is mostly because their understanding with the builder exlcuded: a fixed end date, milestones of completed project chunks, measurement and reporting requirements for what's done and still outstanding. Design and Build contractors do this because it’s in their best interest to finish a job as quickly as possible so they can get client sign off and move on and setting clear and visible targets is one way they manage the process.

That sounds reassuring, but how will we know if a Design & Build contractor is pricing accurately.

Click here for the next instalment.
This article was contributed by Ari Berman, a Management Consultant from Toronto, Canada, with a specialization in operations and process change. He has helped companies spanning aircraft builders to soda drink manufacturers to increase their value - finding and improving important details that never got attended to in past. His work in the construction industry includes overseeing commercial construction projects in retail shopping malls across Canada. He can be reached at 647-235-8181 or via e-mail on

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