What is a Design and Build Company?

When you think of a construction project, you likely think of a traditional project delivery method where the owner must coordinate with two different contractors: a designer and building contractor. If circumstances change or something goes wrong, the contractor and designer will be quick to place blame on the other party leading to delays, added costs, and in some situations, litigation.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to the traditional construction process –– Design-Build Project Delivery. With the design-build method, the owner only has to manage one general contractor, and there is a single responsible party. The contractor and designer work as a design-build team under one contract. Together, they can provide cohesive construction services for the project that fit the owner’s budget and timeframe. They can address changes and concerns, which leads to innovation, cost savings, and problem-solving rather than excuses and finger-pointing.

Advantages of Using a Design-Build Approach

Today, the design-bid-build approach to non-residential remodel and building projects accounts for nearly 40 percent of these projects. There are a variety of benefits for this method over more traditional construction industry building approaches:

  • Owner Risk – There is less risk for the project owner because there is only one contract and one point of contact. That entity has sole accountability for performance and result guarantees. The construction team and design team are contractually obligated to work together to meet the project’s budget and scope, and they take the risk for project completion. The elimination of change orders is significant in eliminating delays and unexpected costs.
  • Higher Quality – Owners are better able to work closely with the design-build firms to ensure that their expectations are met. This also creates more accountability. Better collaboration between the design-build team ensures that the final product aligns with what the owner envisioned.
  • Faster Delivery – In many instances, projects are completed faster because there is continual communication between the designers and the construction team. This results in fewer delays that can impact the project schedule.
  • Cost Efficiency – Because the contractors and designers are working side by side throughout the entire process, there are typically fewer changes, fewer claims, and less litigation. Project costs are usually more concrete at the beginning of the process, and changes are limited to only those requested by the owner for the scope of the project.

When to Use a Design-Build Company

Although design-build construction can be used across various industries and applied to a broad range of projects, it won’t work for all projects. Before choosing a delivery method for your project, take into consideration the following:

  • Project Scope Understanding – Do you have a clear understanding of the project’s scope and boundaries? Do stakeholders understand and share those objectives?
  • Owner Expectations for Delivery – Why is there a need to integrate the construction phase and design phase? Design-build allows flexibility and could deliver a higher quality result.
  • Owner Relationship Preferences – Does the owner have a desire to place their confidence in one single source? They must believe in the integrity, expertise and creativity of the master builder and listen to their recommendations during the process. The value of a team approach relies on the trust and ability of the team leader to communicate and work with the owner and other team members.
  • Owner Resources – Does the owner have adequate time, enthusiasm, and attention to invest in the project from start to finish? The design-build process requires owner commitment and engagement throughout the entire process to truly benefit from this delivery method.
  • Budget – Design-build delivery can support a fixed budget, but the owner’s tolerance level for unexpected change orders should be considered. With design-build delivery, there are typically fewer change orders.
  • Completion Date – Does the owner have a fixed move-in date? Is a shortened duration an option for the project? Project over-runs are a risk that can have ripple effects on costs. Design-build delivery may result in a shortened project duration and is less likely to go over schedule.

What the Process Looks Like When Working with a Design and Build Company

Unlike other types of build services, a design-build project will overlap by design, which can be a bit difficult for an owner to follow. This means a project might begin before every little detail has been decided. However, since all parties are collaborating, communication is often clearer, which allows this to happen without issue. Also, since one party is responsible for design and construction, the owner won’t have to make decisions they aren’t experienced in. Here is what you can expect when working through a design-build process:

  • Initial Meeting – This is where you will meet with the contractor and discuss their qualifications for the project, budget and design preferences, and exchange contact information. You may also meet with the design coordinator and review their fees.
  • Design Meeting – This is where you will sign the contract for design services and be introduced to the architectural designer and see their qualifications. You will discuss the style, budget, and project goals and priorities.
  • Preliminary Design Presentation – This is when you will see the plans and design of your project and be able to make revisions and changes.
  • Cost Estimations – Now that you’ve settled on the design, the contractor will provide you with estimates for the design and compare them to your budget. You will be able to make changes and discuss product selections.
  • Contract and Loan Completion – You will need to complete any financial documentation and contracts and apply for any permits required for construction.
  • Construction – This is where pre-construction work begins, and site preparation and demolition (if needed) will be the first step.

Finding a Design and Build Company 

In traditional building methods, you would start by selecting an architect, but during the design-build process, you simply have to choose a design-builder. While this streamlines everything, it does mean that you should do your research to make sure you select an experienced, qualified company for your project.

A design-builder should be flexible with you and willing to pass any savings on the project back to you. They should have a top-notch team and low callback numbers. Callback numbers refers to how many times a contractor had to come back to fix issues after completing a project.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a portfolio of completed projects and a list of references for projects similar to yours. Your design-build company should have an excellent communication system in place so you can stay up to date on the progress of your project.

At Synapse Construction, we have an experienced, professional team of design-builders that can walk you through the steps of a design-build contract and ensure that your project is done quickly, professionally, and correctly. Contact us today to find out more about whether a design-build project is right for you.

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