Design-Build for Expediting Project Schedules

by Ryan Hagaman Principal Construction Project Manager
New permit requirements, court orders, and other critical schedule drivers often require companies to complete complex projects in a short amount of time. In active facilities, new regulatory requirements can lead to a loss in production until the requirements are met; or worse, can incur fines as a result of missing regulatory deadlines. When schedules are tight and the pressure is on, a design-build approach might be the solution.

Single Point of Respon­si­bil­ity
Design-build provides the owner with a single point of respon­si­bil­ity from project inception, through permitting, design, construc­tion, and start-up/commis­sion­ing. Within a very short time frame, a team of design and construc­tion profes­sion­als begins collab­o­rat­ing to meet the owner's needs, with commu­ni­ca­tions funnelled through a dedicated project manager. By estab­lish­ing a single point of respon­si­bil­ity, and a collab­o­ra­tive team of engineer and contractor, the design-build approach drastically reduces the potential for conflicts and claims that can occur on fast-tracked projects. Methods of controlling the designer-builder's cost include lump sum pricing prior to selection, where applicable; or alternately, open-book cost reim­bursable approaches when scope uncer­tain­ties or need for scope flexibility exists.

Early Estab­lish­ment of Budget and Schedule
When faced with regulatory deadlines, owners often need to quickly determine the project budget to secure the proper funding, and then carefully plan project cash flow. One of the benefits of the design-build approach is the early estab­lish­ment of the project budget and schedule. Because the contractor is engaged early in the design process, the budget and schedule are developed before the final design is complete and the owner has reliable cost information much earlier than with traditional design-bid-build projects. Since a detailed project schedule is also developed early, the owner and design-builder can work together to establish the project cash flow and account for any special concerns or limitations. The team can also take it a step further by using advanced project scheduling to account for risks and uncer­tain­ties that can hinder the project deadline.

When schedules are tight and the pressure is on, choosing a design-build approach for project completion can make all the difference.
Ryan Hagaman, Principal Construction Project Manager

Pre-pur­chas­ing and Early Re­lease Pack­ages
Dur­ing de­vel­op­ment of the pro­ject sched­ule, the de­sign-build team de­ter­mines the crit­i­cal path and iden­ti­fies long - lead equipment-items that typically take several months to ship - and/or con­struc­tion pack­ages that have the great­est im­pact on timely com­ple­tion of the pro­ject. The col­lab­o­ra­tive na­ture of a de­sign-build ap­proach en­ables the con­trac­tor to work closely with the en­gi­neer­ing team to pre­pare pre-pur­chase pack­ages and pro­cure long-lead equip­ment early in the de­sign process. Using this method, the long-lead equip­ment is fab­ri­cated con­cur­rently with com­ple­tion of the final design, thereby fast-tracking the overall project sched­ule.

Early con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, such as site civil work and con­crete, can also be pro­cured prior to com­ple­tion of final design by preparing early-release packages. By using early-release pack­ages, the con­trac­tor can mo­bi­lise ear­lier and can en­sure that when long-lead equip­ment is shipped to the site, the items can be in­stalled with­out delay. Be­cause of this abil­ity to quickly ad­vance a pro­ject to "shovel ready" sta­tus, de­sign-build de­liv­ery can pro­vide an ad­van­tage for pro­jects re­ceiv­ing public fund­ing.

In con­trast to a typ­i­cal relay-style ap­proach, where one or­ga­ni­za­tion han­dles the de­sign and then passes ex­e­cu­tion to an­other group, de­sign-build fa­cil­i­tates in­ter­ac­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion among field experts right from day one. Specialists in their fields are motivated by the same goals, and are brought in wher­ever and when­ever they are needed in the process.

Be In­formed
Design-build can provide owners with a great way to fast-track a project. When executed properly, the result is not only an ex­pe­dited project, but one that min­i­mises the need for change orders, provides better final work products, and signif­i­cantly reduces the potential for multi-party disputes. 

Choosing the best design-build approach for project completion can make all the difference.
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