The Inevitability of Design/Build

It seems that old habits die hard when it comes to choosing a project delivery method because some private owners and public sector representatives are still hanging on to the traditional design/bid/build method for completion of their projects. But recent data suggests that the tide is changing and that design/build is destined to become the preferred choice of project delivery in the North American construction industry, as it already is in Europe and Japan. I, for one, believe this change is long overdue.

According to the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), design/build is today’s fastest growing project delivery method. A graph on the organization’s Web site shows a breakdown of the percentage of projects by year that use one of the following types of project delivery methods: design/build, design/bid/build, or construction management (at risk). The design/build method (currently sitting at 40%) is projected to continue its rise in popularity and eventually match the design/bid/build percentage (which has been on the decline) sometime around 2010. By 2015, the organization predicts design/build will be used on 50% of all projects.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What else would an organization that was founded on the principle of advocating and advancing single-source project delivery say, right? Well, check out a few more statistics I dug up on the topic.

One of the questions in our 2005 Top 40 design firms survey asked participants to identify what percentage of their work fell in to the category of design/build. Twenty-four of the Top 40 firms responded, and the answers varied widely, from a low of 2% to a high of 100%. The group average was 20%. We asked this same question in last year’s survey, and although the number of responses was far less back then (14 as compared to 24), the average for this group one year ago was only 14%, and the highest figure noted was just 50%. And although our small group of respondents in this year’s survey came up with a number that averaged only half that of the DBIA, this number is rising quickly and fits in with many of the design firms’ goals of becoming a one-stop shop for design and construction services.

Our survey findings also seem to agree with independent research performed by ZweigWhite, a Natick, Mass.-based management consulting, information, and education firm for the design and construction industry. A ZweigWhite 2004 design/build survey of 150 architecture, engineering, construction, and integrated design/build firm leaders revealed about 80% of them predict an increase in the use of design/build over the next five years. The survey also revealed that integrated design/build firms expect 80% of their revenues to come from design/build projects in 10 years, whereas construction firms estimate that number to be 50%.

Why has the popularity of this project delivery method increased in recent years? For one, it places full responsibility for design and construction in the hands of a single entity. This results in a single point of contact for quality of work, cost, and adherence to design and construction schedules. It also eliminates all of the finger pointing that goes on with the design/bid/build method.

So now that I’ve shown you some key statistics to support the inevitability of design/build, you’ve got a big decision to make. You can sit back and wait to see if the trend continues, while your competitors erode your market share, or you can do whatever you can to help reposition your company to be the best full service provider of design and construction services it can be. The choice is yours.

TAGS: Design
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