Teamwork, Trust & Achieving the Benefits of Design-Build Delivery

By Jon McGrew, AIA, DBIA

Jon is an associate principal and key leader in our civic and cultural, academic, and commercial projects. He is president-elect of the Oregon chapter of the Design-Build Institute of America and was one of the first architects in Oregon to be fully certified by the DBIA.

Design-build project delivery has existed for many years and is common in other states, but the method is still new to many public agencies and other owners in Oregon. Preparing a project for D-B procurement may seem overwhelming at first — but we believe it presents the greatest potential for success.

Design-build offers unique benefits that can only be achieved through the kind of constant teamwork afforded by having a single, cohesive team of designers, builders, and owners — a team where everyone gets to pick their partners. Progressive D-B in particular encourages teams to form based on trust and past experience successfully working together.

design-build delivery benefits educational presentation
Jon McGrew, Nick Byers, and Alan Osborne share design-build principles and best practices with fellow Hennebery Eddy staff. The three are involved with the DBIA Oregon chapter.

Potential Design-Build Delivery Benefits:
  • The owner has a single point of responsibility — and is no longer “stuck in the middle” between consultants and contractors not on the same page. Owners are guaranteed the level of performance required by the RFP, and errors are addressed in a collaborative team effort, potentially eliminating the need for change orders. The owner can also choose their preferred level of involvement, opting to be fully integrated with the team, or occasionally checking in with the single contact point.
  • It allows for earlier cost certainty because the level of cost and performance are fixed in the contract early in the process. Further, it’s the only delivery system where construction subcontractors can be selected and engaged prior to the completion of construction documents. With these resources on board, the D-B team can work together to manage cost and provide the highest-value solutions for the target budget.
design-build delivery benefits cost certainty
These charts illustrate a more traditional vs. design-build approach to design and cost certainty
  • It can be the fastest. Like CM/GC delivery, design-build offers the opportunity to achieve schedule efficiencies through early involvement by the contractor, but it also wraps in subcontractors and suppliers. The complete team can efficiently craft solutions together, with contractor input on overall project sequencing and constructability, which means a quicker path to pinpointing the final solution.
design-build delivery benefits fast track schedule
These charts illustrate how early contractor involvement can reduce schedule and cost
  • Creativity and collaboration thrive. Working together as a unified group to achieve the stated performance requirements, the D-B team has freedom and motivation to pursue creative problem-solving ideas. The entire team is more likely to feel a sense of commitment and excitement from earlier in the process. Because everyone is on the same page, and knows exactly who is doing what, the team has a higher chance of providing recommendations that meet owner needs for design, cost, and schedule.

Achieving these potential design-build delivery benefits require effort on everyone’s part. Following best practices, as outlined by the Design-Build Institute of America, is a place to start. These include education and training in D-B delivery and early establishment of project communication processes.

But the most important predictor of project value is trust among project team members and shared expectations for success. A design-build team that is a fully engaged, collaborative, and responsible — where all members have confidence in each other — has the greatest opportunity of delivering a project of which all are proud.

Questions about design-build or progressive design-build? Contact Jon McGrew, DBIA.