It’s time for your next construction project, but this time around, you want to get more out of it. You’re looking for ways to improve teamwork between subcontractors, architects, the owner, and your organization.
Design-build projects redistribute roles for everyone involved. With a fresh mindset and team structure, you have better opportunities to finish the project safely, within budget, and on schedule. It’s important to know how these changes affect design-build success.
To paint a vivid picture of this concept in action, we're covering the top five ways general contractors (GCs) can improve their next design-build project.
Owners increasingly desire higher value and faster delivery. Optimizing a project to meet the owner’s needs requires seamless integration across numerous design and construction firms aligned for a common goal. This approach requires several key components within your design-build team:
With eager, empathetic communicators in every role, you can move up deliveries for equipment with long lead times, and effectively hold constructability discussions alongside design considerations. Open access to drawings, BIM, materials pricing, and plans, can help you can make the right choice the first time.
That will make any owner pleased!
What is the owner’s overall plan for this facility and its end users? Which systems are critical to its success? What details are important to the owner? Subcontractors are excellent at making decisions when information is incomplete. This is precisely why documenting the owner’s values is critical to empowering the subcontractors to deliver value while design is still underway.
Consider this: The original drawings call for a lounge in the center of the building. Is it simply a walking space between consistently occupied rooms, or will it be the building’s focus on weekends – like a wedding? If the room is a centerpiece, then perhaps using more of the budget to accommodate high occupancy and elegant diffusers is the correct decision. If not, money can be saved and applied to other areas important to the owner.
Here are some questions to ask an owner:
Preferences on system selection, energy savings, first costs, space use, schedule, and local/system-specific quality should be thoroughly discussed and documented. Once completed, this list becomes invaluable when preparing suggested options for the owner, as well as planning for the fast schedule.
Once the team is on the same page and the owner’s values are clearly identified, the budget will determine the range of options available. With this information, subcontractors can show additional value through expertise and creativity.
With a seat at the design table, subcontractors can design to their supplier’s capabilities. Those savings can be passed on to the owner, leading to a stronger relationship for later projects.
How fast can you complete the project? With design-build, it depends on how well you have planned. Lean, Pull-Planning, and coordination between both design and construction parties are critical to maintaining the schedule.
Two other milestones are important to map. First, owner project requirements should be identified before underground plumbing begins, or when long lead-time equipment is ordered. The second is identifying the latest possible dates to make key decisions.
If both deadlines are kept, then the project can continue at its brisk pace.
While subcontractors are important to the decision-making process, architects and general contractors still have management responsibilities for the overall design-build team. Architects, because of their experience on plan-spec projects, are often natural leaders during discussions, but GCs and subcontractors should not be afraid to voice their opinions.
GCs have experience leading pricing, scheduling, and constructability discussions, so it is natural for you to continue leading those discussions. Make sure to encourage discussion from all trades to contribute in the discussion.
Before the first discussions get underway, make some time to discuss roles with the architect. Define your roles and responsibilities so you both can leverage your expertise and strengths.
By mastering these concepts, you’ll be equipped to thrive in the collaborative culture of the design-build method. Wondering how it feels to be confident in a project estimate or budget? Download our eye-opening infographic to learn more about design-build collaborations.