Anytime you are building a property, there are a number of contractors you should consider as part of your dream team. With so many moving pieces that need to come together cohesively, determining who should be involved in your project is a critical question that countless homeowners find themselves grappling with. When embarking on a construction project, there are many decisions that need to be made with clarity and insight. One of those decisions is determining whether to use a design-build delivery method or to have separate companies handling each of the tasks independently.
The latter is known as the design-bid-design approach. This is a critical decision because it will have a significant bearing on the process and the final result. Design-build firms offer specialty services that many clients find appealing. Knowing what the scope of their responsibilities are and how they tie into the overall project can help you determine whether you need to hire a design-build contractor for your residential project.
What is design build?
Design build is an approach in construction that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It dates back to 1993 when it officially became a project delivery method. This plan utilizes the services of one company to perform design and construction work for a property. This means that the design build firm is billed separately for the design and construction phases of the project. Each phase is considered a separate service. The design build approach can be applied to both new builds and renovation projects.
Many contractors, particularly those who construct large complexes or conduct complex renovations often prefer to execute a plan that has already been drawn by another contractor. Unless, of course, the contractors offer design services themselves. There are many reasons for and against this type of approach, which we will discuss shortly.
The design and construction parts of any construction project are intricately intertwined and require both teams to work closely with one another to achieve the desired outcome. Many believe that the best way this can be achieved is by having the same company handle both. There is an opposing thought that having a separate contractor responsible for the construction is the way to go.
The alternative method is the design-bid-build approach. It is considered the more conventional delivery method because it has worked over the years. It includes hiring a designer to do all the drawings and the plans for the building. The designer is allowed to hire consultants as needed whose work is supervised by the designer. When the drawings have been completed, the designer is essentially done with the project and is usually only retained to make small adjustments if necessary.
Once the designs have been drawn and completed, the client now accepts bids from different construction companies for the construction part of the project. The design-build approach is different. It gives the responsibility of design and construction solely to one company.
For you to gain an appreciation for the design-build concept, we’ve decided to delve deep into this approach by explaining the advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of.
Pros of Design Build
Simplifies design and construction process
Anytime you have 2 or more services completed by a single contractor, it will allow for easier flow and communication. Having different contractors responsible for different tasks in one project creates more room for misunderstanding, miscommunication, and costly delays. Working on a construction project always means there will be many moving pieces that need to be managed well. The more people you have involved in your project the more communication is required. Communication issues are a huge reason why construction problems arise. Often one company is waiting to hear back from another, and delays are both costly and inconvenient. The design-build approach is often less stressful for the client because they are working with one team that has been tasked with the design and the construction.
And as a result, there is more fluid communication. Another key point supporting a design-build delivery method is: one company working on both the design and construction aspects of the project creates greater accountability within the company to produce quality services. They have a reputation to uphold and are much more inclined to uphold their reputation and deliver results. When you have more than one company working on the project, it’s easier for one to cast blame on the other company for mistakes, misinterpretation of the design, or other types of errors.
There’s no question that time is of the essence when carrying out a complex construction project. Delays are costly and should be avoided as much as possible. Chances are that the construction work is interfering with day-to-day activities on the premises or creating another inconvenience for the company having the construction done. Time is sometimes lost due to poor communication and misunderstandings when clients are working with multiple contractors. The fewer people you have on your project, the greater ability you will have to work better within given timelines.
Typically, you can expect faster delivery of services through the design-build approach. Design-build companies are accustomed to working as a team, and since they have worked together, it means that they are more inclined to communicating more effectively with various members of their immediate team than contractors whom they have never worked with. And to this end, design-build contractors often have created processes within their services that streamline communication and tasks. In essence, design-build firms are much like a one-stop shop.
Having a single company in charge of your design and construction means that many of the tasks can be bundled together, which results in huge cost savings. Anytime you’re contracting out many different services, you will be required to pay for each of those services individually. Going with the design-build approach means that many of these tasks will be performed as part of the project, meaning you don’t have to worry about individual costs adding up to some astronomical figure.
One of the tasks that can creep up and increase the cost of your project are design changes. When separate contractors are involved, there can be some back-and-forth between the architect and the builder, with the designer questioning the practicality of some aspects of the design. This may lead to design changes which are costly. Choosing the design-build method can help to prevent this. Since the same company that is in charge of the design is also doing the construction, there are some considerations that are given to each service by the team that reduces the number of design changes, or eliminates them altogether.
Industry knowledge and expertise
The design-build method allows for the collaboration of experienced contractors who have solid partnerships with builders, designers, and architects. This ensures a higher quality of work and can be reassuring given the large financial investment associated with construction projects. The design-build team consists of various professionals including construction managers or general managers, architects/engineers, subcontractors, and suppliers all serving the client.
The benefit of this type of team is that all the experts are used to working with one another from beginning to end, with each of them bringing their expertise to the project. Masterminds coming together that already have a good working relationship among themselves usually translates to a more seamless construction process. This also allows the team to collaborate with one another, share ideas and use innovative approaches to the project. The truth is construction errors can be very costly. And you want assurance that the company you are working with can leverage relationships with experts in the field to deliver precise and amazing results.
No issues between designer and contractor
What often happens when you have two separate companies handling design and construction is that issues arise between the two that need to be resolved. Whether it has to do with scheduling or understanding of the scope of each party’s responsibilities, there is always a fair amount of tension that comes with two different companies working together.
This means time needs to be spent ironing out issues that arise between the two, particularly concerning errors in the design or understanding of the design. Since each contractor may have their own interpretation of the designs, there’s room for plenty of mistakes. With each considering their way the “right way,” the client may find that a lot of time must be spent settling and understanding various viewpoints.
Cons of Design Build
While there are many reasons why design-build makes complete sense as an approach for a construction project, there are some downsides that need to be considered.
Contractor controls design and construction
Since the same company that is handling the design is also doing the construction, you will need to have solid confidence in the company that you hire. If the design and build contractor proves to be incompetent, there’s very little you can do to salvage the loss.
If you are happy with the company, great; however, if their services are lackluster, you are stuck with them for the entire project. Giving a company this level of trust is a risk that many clients are not willing to take. That’s why it’s important to do a good amount of research before you hire a design build contractor for your project.
May lack creative design
Sometimes outside designers can offer unique and creative ideas that can make a world of difference for your project. One of the disadvantages that you may experience with a design build approach is limited creativity when it comes to design options.
Since the same company is responsible for the design and the build, they may default to design ideas that they have implemented in the past and have experienced success with. So, it’s crucial to work with a design build company that focuses on working with their clients to build the right custom designs for their home.
Companies that specialize in design alone often explore innovative ways to reinvent the wheel, giving you a wider variety of options including trendier and more custom choices.
Another challenge or disadvantage is that the client is often less involved in the project when a design build approach is used. Usually, during the early stages of the project, there is a great deal of interaction with the client but that tends to taper off as the project unfolds. While some clients may want to take a more laidback role, less involvement is not always ideal. It gives the design build team the ability to make more decisions about the project as they see fit.
No competitive bidding
Competition is a great thing for businesses because it forces companies to create competitive rates. Anytime you have a company that does not have to worry about competing with other designers, you may have to deal with inflated costs.
While there often is some wiggle room for negotiation when you’re dealing with design-build contractors, you don’t have the option of competitive bidding.
No third-party inspection
This speaks to what we mentioned earlier about putting your complete trust in a single company to provide quality services. Because they’re doing everything in-house, you do not have an unbiased inspection to ensure that the work is being done properly and up to code.
There’s no sure way of knowing that corners aren’t being cut to save a few extra dollars for the contractor. This is a top risk you take when you choose to go with a design-build plan which is why it’s important to choose the right design and build contractor for your project.
Now that you know what the pros and cons are of hiring a design-build contractor, you can determine whether this delivery method is best for your project. Searching for design and build contractors near me? NICKS Developments is happy to help get you one step closer to your dream home. Learn more about our services by getting in touch with a friendly member of our team.