ALTERNATIVE DELIVERY METHODS: Which One Is Right for Your Project?
For the most part, the traditional “design-bid-build” model for the construction process has been a practical, straightforward means for delivering a construction project. The architect designs, a contractor is hired through the bid process, and the contractor builds.
But depending on a specific project’s circumstances—from complexity, to scheduling, to budget—alternative delivery methods may offer a more efficient and effective way to meet a client’s needs.
In the design-build approach, a unified team of designers and contractors works together from the beginning of the project, under one contract. This approach typically shifts more of the risk from the owner to the contractor and encourages collaboration which, theoretically, reduces RFIs, change orders, and time.
This speed-to-market benefit was initially a huge draw to data center developers, who need their facilities to be up and running quickly. Early on, data centers were also somewhat simple, big-box facilities, so a complex design process wasn’t necessary. “Design-build made total sense for the Mission Critical market,” says Scott Rugen, director of Mission Critical services at Structure Tone Southwest (STSW). “The client and the team knew exactly what they were looking for, so our combined efforts could save time on the schedule.”
But as the Mission Critical market has matured, owners have developed more sophisticated facilities. “The drawback of design-build for an owner is they need to make sure they are very organized and involved in the early planning,” says Andrew Riela, STSW Mission Critical technical services director. “If specific brands, typologies, and configurations aren’t in the program documents at the beginning, they’ll end up with the change orders they were trying to avoid.”
STSW’s Mission Critical team is now seeing a shift to an almost in-between approach. “The majority of our work now is more like ‘design assist’,” says Randy Slagle, STSW Mission Critical director of preconstruction. “We peer review the design documents and assess constructability to make their design fit into the given building or site. It’s not a design-build contract, per se, but collaboration is still a big part of the process.”
INTEGRATED PROJECT DELIVERY (IPD)
In Philadelphia, LF Driscoll has been working in an even more integrated, collaborative delivery model on what Penn Medicine has called Philadelphia’s “most sophisticated and ambitious healthcare building project.”
Totaling 1.5Msf, the new Penn Medicine Pavilion is one of the largest projects on the East Coast to design and build through an integrated project delivery (IPD) approach.
LF Driscoll is part of the PennFIRST IPD team building the project, which also includes Penn Medicine as owner, Foster+Partners and HDR as architectural designers, BR+A as engineering designer, and Balfour Beatty as construction management partner, as well as a number of key trade contractor partners.
In an IPD arrangement, the contract itself is set up to not only encourage but demand a collaborative environment. Rather than each project team member signing a contract with the owner, the entire team is contracted together in a multi-party agreement where the success of each party relies on that of the others.
We’re all partners in this together,” says Ed Hanzel, project executive with LF Driscoll. “The contract describes what the process is and how we work through that from a business perspective.”
A key benefit to the IPD approach is the cost control built into the process. At the beginning of the project, the team collectively develops a “project target cost” based on the owner’s budget and program. This target guides all the decisions made for the design and construction going forward. Also called “target value design,” this process allows the designers, construction managers, and users to work together throughout to make changes and informed decisions that will keep the project from creeping beyond the target cost.
“In IPD, instead of taking a value engineering approach where we have to unravel something already completed, we can do that as we go,” says Hanzel. “And we like that we can get our subs involved at that stage as well, so our expert contractors can work directly with designers. It’s good for everyone.”
DETAIL & BUILD
While these approaches to construction have a number of benefits, the emphasis on team decision-making has the potential to add layers of approvals and possibly slow down the process. Structure Tone’s London operation, however, recently launched a team that leverages the benefits of a design-build relationship in a more agile, flexible model.
STO’s new “detail & build” division in London specializes in Category A and B interior fit-out projects with a value roughly between £500–5M. The idea is to bring together Structure Tone’s experts with the client’s early in the project to create a more integrated, effective partnership, but with the control and governance of more traditional procurement and ongoing construction.
“It’s about making the entire process more efficient by maximising the contractor’s relationship to take a more direct path from design to construction,” says Richard Howard, Structure Tone’s detail & build lead. “By working closely with the client design guardians and professional team, our team of experts bridge the gap between design-build and traditional procurement.”
So far, the market has responded to the new service and the speed, cost certainty, and minimised risks the detail & build model has to offer. London’s detail & build team is working on a number of core refurbishment and Category A fit-out projects, all of which will take only four months using the approach.
“We’re delighted to offer our clients such a rapid, highly cost-effective fit-out solution with all the benefits of a tier 1 contractor,” says Adam Rowe, Structure Tone London divisional director.
The most important factor in determining the approach to a project’s design and construction is, of course, the client’s goal. Not all projects need, for instance, the expanded team and formality of IPD. But for the PennFIRST team building the Penn Medicine Pavilion, the IPD approach is a perfect fit.
“Since we’re able to make design decisions as we go, we can push out some decisions knowing that medical technologies may evolve just while we’re in construction,” says Hanzel. “But we’ve been able to set our general parameters and use our project target cost process to adjust to whatever our client needs.”