How To Develop A Successful Approach To Design/Build Construction

This approach uses win-win solutions, including those having the best balance of cost, function, efficiency, maintainability, and delivery for a particular project.In today's competitive construction market, there are almost as many project delivery methodologies as projects. But tailoring your choice to the individual project's specifications and circumstances will help ensure success. Key factors

This approach uses win-win solutions, including those having the best balance of cost, function, efficiency, maintainability, and delivery for a particular project.

In today's competitive construction market, there are almost as many project delivery methodologies as projects. But tailoring your choice to the individual project's specifications and circumstances will help ensure success. Key factors dictating a particular type of delivery method include budget, time restraints, risk, and level of quality.

The method of choice for many owners is the Design/Build approach, which has become more popular in the last 10 years. Whether you're a consulting engineer or contractor, you should become familiar with the process and find out what it takes to achieve results.

Here's what you need for a successful Design/Build project. * A well defined and explicit scope of work; * A specific range of responsibility for each team member and criteria for measurement; * A knowledgeable owner who can make quick, sound decisions; * Experienced, competent team members, and * A cohesive team with members fully committed to the common needs and goals set by the owner.

The crux of success is bringing the right team together to negotiate a win-win plan as well as addressing goals and needs of all team members to ultimately satisfy the owner. Of course, the right team with the right goals and a cooperative/knowledgeable owner spells success for almost any delivery method.

The two most significant factors involved in successfully implementing a Design/Build approach all come back to timeliness. The project moves rapidly, and you must make decisions quickly. Therefore, there's a better opportunity for you to make a profit. Most construction people agree the longer a project takes, the lower the probability involved companies will make a profit. And achieving a good profit margin is central to the good health of your business.

The Design/Build team leader is the single source of responsibility for the owner and is normally the member who is financially and legally capable of entering a contract and guaranteeing completion of the work. Most often, it's the general contractor-the firm having the necessary balance sheet and bonding capacity. But, it can be the architect, engineer, or an outside party.

The Design/Build methodology can give the owner better control of time and budget, but quality can suffer if the goals of the owner, design team, and contractor are not balanced properly.

The Design/Build team requires a good initial scope/program of detailed needs and expectations from the owner. If you don't fully define this scope of needs and expectations up-front, you may end up with a final product that doesn't meet the goals of the owner. Note: When the Design/Build concept is used and the architect is part of the design team, the client is the owner.

On Design/Build projects, you just can't afford any of the petty, self-serving stances typically seen in the traditional Design/Bid/Build method. To achieve success, you must have synergy between the owner, general contractor, design team, and subcontractors. Of course, all members should be experienced and capable in their fields, but, they also must have the ability to think "outside the box." Most importantly, they must be capable ofcoming up with "win-win" solutions, which are those that incorporate the best balance of cost, function, efficiency, maintainability, and delivery for that particular project.

The engineer in this situation must be open-minded, flexible, and willing to consider all options. Then, he or she can come up with the best design solution that combines safety, function, and effectiveness. This balance will vary for every project and owner.

The owner, design team, and contractor must spend enough time evaluating what that balance is if the project is to proceed and meet set goals.

Compromise and cooperation are a must. A knowledgeable representative for the owner is important to the Design/Build process. This person must be capable of making decisions quickly. Without such a decisive, responsive, knowledgeable representative, the Design/Build process may stall. This diminishes the time benefits of this strategy and can result in the process more closely resembling the traditional Design/Bid/Build concept. This can inevitably lead to design/review/design.

A successful application of the Design/Build delivery process is the customer service center for Citicorp Data Systems, Inc., in San Antonio. The service center consists of two telecommunication buildings to support Citicorp's consumer banking operations by sustaining on-line customer service for more than eight million banking customers. This service center offers continuous service on an uninterrupted basis: 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year.

Our team designed and built the fast-track Citicorp project in two phases, each having a six- to eight-month time period from the start of design until user move-in. Phase 1 is a 131,400-sq-ft two-story building, housing 400 employees. This phase includes a 25,000-sq-ft data center designed and built in less than seven months, with the second floor occupied after only six months from start.

The Phase 2 effort, designed and built in eight months, is a 152,600-sq-ft two-story building, including a 2,500-sq-ft physical fitness area. It houses 425 employees. Again, the second floor occupied early.

Both buildings have full-service cafeterias. Most of the remaining areas in both buildings consist of large open office spaces with raised floors, modular furniture, small private offices, and conference rooms.

Time and budget constraints forced the competitive construction award on a Design/Build basis, which suited the needs of the client. Citicorp furnished examples of similar past projects with specifications. Five teams headed by general contractors submitted price proposals, with three finalists interviewed.

The result of the selection process was an Owner (client) / Design (architect and engineers) / Build (general contractor) team having a common goal: Building a state-of-the-art customer service center within budget and the client's fast-track deadline for occupancy. All members of the team had to work together, and at times make compromises to meet this twofold goal. This project taught us the Design/Build process can create a "marriage" between the design and construction team.

The Citicorp representative, a person experienced and knowledgeable in construction, was totally focused on meeting the needs of his employer. He worked hard in sticking to the deadlines, was fair in dealing with all team members, and totally involved in the design and construction of the facility. When design or construction team members had questions on function, materials, etc., he was ready to analyze alternatives and make quick decisions, enabling this project to stay on schedule and proceed successfully.

Architects and consulting engineers of the Design/Build team worked on other projects together and had successfully practiced the Design/Build method. This experience gave our team the edge in anticipating problems, working through challenges, and seeking team solutions. Each team member was familiar with the procedures, techniques, and personalities of other team associates. This factor worked to our advantage in negotiating the day-to-day decisions necessary for this fast-track project.

During the bidding process, the general contractor and its subcontractors worked closely with the design team to define site, building, and equipment budgets and schedules. The architect developed CAD backgrounds, a design schedule with milestones, and an action plan with target dates. This allowed them to hit the ground running as soon as they established the team and signed a contract.

Our goal, as the consulting engineer, was to find the correct balance of functionality, efficiency, maintainability and deliverability. Our responsibility was not only to design safe, reliable, efficient mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems, but also to be sensitive to the win-win goals of the owner and team. The key was to provide sensible engineering while integrating team goals with the owner's needs. Our firm also worked closely with the electrical subcontractor. We have a positive history of working with this firm on a number of projects, and this was an advantage in making the Citicorp project a fast-track effort.

Since there were only six to eight months allowed for the design and construction of each of the two phases, ordering and delivery of equipment was important to meeting construction deadlines. Equipment selection was the first decision. The equipment discussions covered the types of apparatus to be used, which included the mechanical systems (HVAC, etc.), UPS systems (whether to use static or rotary units), emergency/back-up power systems (amount of recommended redundancy), electrical distribution systems (types of conductors and protection devices), lighting systems, etc.

The owner, consulting engineer, and appropriate subcontractors created a sub-team that was involved in many discussions addressing system options. Some major points for consideration for each system were functionality, maintainability, operating costs, and delivery time. After the initial system reviews, our firm offered alternative systems and recommendations, along with life cycle costs and delivery times to the Owner/Design/Build team for evaluation and final decisions. Because these decisions were the building blocks of the design and subsequent construction, they took first priority and were the focus of considerable time and analysis.

Members of the Owner/Design/Construction team visited similar Citicorp facilities in Hagerstown, M.D. and Las Vegas. The following examples are a few of the system changes made after going through the above process: * The structure for the project must use concrete instead of steel (used on the other projects). The general contractor and structural engineer showed Citicorp that because of the availability of concrete, they could get a better structure for the same money. * We changed the central mechanical system from water source heat pumps to water-cooled chillers. The owner would recoup the initial cost after less than two years.

Once we made systems decisions, we sized the equipment. Suppliers submitted information on their equipment for review. After careful evaluation of these submittals, we made decisions on specific types and sizes, which we used for ordering that equipment. This step helped to shorten the normal submittal process.

Concurrent with the system and equipment selections was the start of working drawings. The level of detail included in Design/Build documents differs from that in traditional Design/Bid/Build working documents as explained in the paragraph below.

We issued working documents in multiple phases/packages (such as the site work, foundation, shell/structure, systems, and finish-out). This allowed the drawings to get into the field as soon as possible. Some documents were prepared in much finer detail than normal.

For example, our firm prepared extensive underground conduit routing drawings, including all blockout requirements for the electrical subcontractor. The general contractor also used these drawings as field installation drawings for construction.

The electrical subcontractor's representative visited our offices almost every morning to review drawings, discuss installation methods, and make sugges tions before going into the field. He would then take the latest available drawings out to the field with him. This daily control method helped our firm, the general contractor, and electrical subcontractor stay on top of the aggressive fast-track schedule.

Our firm furnished field construction administrators throughout the design process, and they visited the construction site weekly. These people were part of the design team, and therefore were able to answer field questions with knowledge of the team goals. The construction administrators met with the general contractor and subcontractors to overview the construction process and to be available to answer any MEP questions. This process eliminated the time-consuming request for information (RFI) process that you normally do on traditional Design/Bid/Build projects.

The results of the Citicorp Design/Build project were very positive. The team designed and built the two buildings 21 months apart. It completed the first structure in seven months and the second one in eight months. Each phase came within budget and gave the owner/client safe, functional, reliable, and efficient mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

The Design/Build team members selected for this project were Bartlett Cocke, Inc. (the general contractor), represented by Duane Pozza; Lane & Smart Architects (the architectural firm), represented by Brent Lane; and Goetting & Associates, Inc. (the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers), represented by this writer. The client/owner was represented by Fred Gould, the Director of Facilities for Citicorp Data Systems, Inc., at San Antonio. Our firm worked closely with the electrical subcontractor for this project, Gerard Electric, Inc., represented by Randy Amescua.

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