14 Sep 2009

Design-Build: The Super Star or Super Team

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Do you like sports? Do full-contact team sports like football, basketball and soccer motivate you or do you prefer the indivdual sports like tennis, golf and gymnastics? I’m a team sport fan and enjoyed playing football, basketball and soccer because I like the interdepence of players working together, exploiting their strengths, to win championships. Of course, the satisfaction of cultivating an individual talent to earn the #1 ranking in the world is remarkably fulfilling too. Did you know designing and building your home can be like a team or individual sport? It’s true! You can develop your design-build project in countless ways, but regardless what the industry calls it, you are “working together” or “working in parts” and both methods have advantages, but how do you know whether to be a super star or super team?

The real estate, design and construction industry uses acronyms to define different project approaches, but regardless how many flavors organizations invent, project delivery falls into two categories — traditional design-bid-build or integrated project team.

Design-Bid-Build (The Owner hires an Architect and the Owner hires a Builder)

Design-bid-build is a traditional project delivery approach. It relies heavily on the owner (typically an individual) to hire the design experts to design the project, a contract expert to bid it and a construction expert to build it.

I use a design-bid-build when:

  • the owner builds their own project
  • the requirements trump budget
  • the owner requests a list of competitive bids or wishes to assess the bidding environment
  • the site is geographically distant from the owner’s primary location
  • the owner wants to establish a budget based on the scope
  • markets are steady and the competitive environment is healthy
  • the owner is hands off
  • the project uses phased funding

Design-bid-build fails when:

  • bidders do not bid competitively
  • budget is the real driver
  • funding is insufficient
  • speed is important
  • the owner micro-manages
  • markets change during design

A design-bid-build is easier for me (the architect) to administer because I focus on design, set the schedule and can work autonomously with strategic feedback without budget limitations. I might bid the project if the owner hires me and can clarify intent during bid. So I’m in and out fast, but it is an inefficient process that consumes significant time, requires strict oversight and may result in finger-pointing when results miss targets. So for owners who need more feedback, budget-insight and speed, I recommend the Integrated Project Team approach.

Integrated Project Team (The Owner, Architect and Builder working together)

As the name implies, this is the team approach and relies on simultaneous involvement and interactive expertise to define-design-fund-build and maintain the project.

I use an integrated project team when:

  • the project is complex or requires specialty expertise
  • the owner seeks LEED certification
  • the budget trumps requirements/desires
  • the owner hires me to select a builder and administer construction
  • the owner needs to establish a scope based on a budget
  • markets are volatile
  • project is sophisticated and the owner is hands-on
  • the team is results-oriented and needs instant budget feedback

The integrated project team fails when:

  • team members have competing goals
  • team members participate sparingly or don’t trust each other
  • the team cannot make decisions

An integrated project is more difficult for me (the architect) because the interaction creates many design options I must explore which can be intellectually exhilerating and draining, but I always recommend the integrated project delivery (the team approach) because budget drives most projects and owners hire architects and builders because they want to build a functional and beautiful project they can afford. An owner-architect-builder team means blending requirements, creativity and budget to create the achievable dream.

Both approaches create successful super star and super team projects, but you have to find the right formula for your personal championship run! Call Your Architect today to ask about our integrated team approach and partner network.

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About the Author


Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 29 years experience in design, construction observation and life.