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Design Build vs Traditional Construction

Updated: Feb 6

Cost. All studies that compare construction methods conclude that the cost of design-build is markedly less. Cost growth with design-build is up to 5.2% less, and unit cost is roughly 6% less with design-build.

Schedule. When your design and construction team are working together, there will be a much more streamlined schedule. This will result in fewer bottlenecks and more opportunities for concurrent work. Studies prove that design-build projects complete significantly faster (up to 33%) than traditional construction projects.

Change orders. Building projects today are becoming more complex. When there is a disconnect between the design and construction phase, the lack of a cohesive team could lead to issues. Change orders can cause delays and be costly. Design-build results in less change orders since there is greater collaboration from start to finish.

Quality of work. Meeting the goals and requirements of the end-user should be paramount, and some traditional construction projects miss this mark completely. Schedule and cost delays could negate the purpose of a project, and a lack of communication between design and construction could create lasting problems. Design-build is proven to reduce these risks and produce a higher quality of work. Our design-build projects are completed up to 33% faster than traditional construction and typically result in costs savings of 6-10%. On average, the design-build method saves 6.1 percent and delivers projects 33.5 percent faster than traditional general contracting. [1] For a $10 million project, that’s a savings of $610,000 — a nice chunk of change to hire a few more grade A employees or invest in expanded offerings.

Design Build vs Traditional Construction - UM Developments
Design Build vs Traditional Construction

But what is design-build, and how does it work?

By definition, design-build is a project delivery method in which one entity takes single-source responsibility for both design and construction. And to many owners, particularly those undertaking the biggest and most complex projects, it’s a godsend.

The problem of ever-increasing complexity

Today’s buildings are becoming more advanced, with higher demands placed on their efficiency. With increasing specialization in everything from smart building technologies and HVAC setups to energy-efficiency and more, no design professional is an expert in every building element. It takes a robust, multi-disciplined team to get a project right. And therein lies the problem with general contracting.

In the traditional general contracting method, owners first hire an architect, who designs the facility, then bid out construction work to contractors, often selecting the low bidder. As a result, there’s a lack of specialized construction expertise on the design team, leading to incomplete, unclear or impractical design specifications. These design challenges inherently cause expensive, time-consuming changes late in the project, conflicts between architect and contractor and, ultimately, increased owner risk.

Building innovation into projects from the start

By contrast, design-build brings expert construction and trade professionals — who will ultimately be tasked with executing the designs — into the process from the start. These professionals aid the design team by evaluating designs for cost, schedule, constructability and sustainability at the onset of a project. Specifications can be value engineered from the start. Cost overruns can be eliminated. And schedule can be streamlined.

The process paves the way for all project parties, owner included, to work creatively as problem solvers. Innovation is now part of the project, and instead of being encumbered by complexity, owners can take advantage of emerging best practices and technologies. Operating as a cohesive unit from start to finish, the team — again, owner included — identifies better building methods, smarter technologies and best-value solutions.

Reducing uncertainty and risk

Design-build aligns all project parties on one team, eliminating disputes between architect and contractor for the owner to settle. With all project parties working together, the design is more robust and complete, requiring far fewer late-game changes on the job site. And the numbers bear this out. When compared with general contracting, design-build sees 11.4 percent less schedule growth and 5.2 percent less cost growth during construction. [2] That means less uncertainty, fewer change orders and significantly reduced owner risk.

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