Design-build is a project delivery system that can shorten project schedules by up to 30%. It is a comprehensive process that includes planning, design, and construction needed to execute a particular project. In the traditional usage, it may incorporate architecture, engineering, and contracting disciplines. In the industrial automation and controls environment (our world), design-build is more narrowly described as the engineering, procurement, and electrical construction needed to support the automation and controls elements. We refer to it as automation EPC.
Sole Source Responsibility
With design-build, there is a single entity that enters into a single contract with the owner to provide the complete set of services needed for the project. In other project delivery methods, there will be separate contracts for the design and for the construction. A single contract is unique to design-build.
With a single design-build entity, the roles of designer and constructor are integrated, producing a unified flow of work from initial concept through startup and commissioning, creating a collaborative relationship between designer and builder that can focus on optimizing project schedules, costs, and quality. The sole source responsibility also eliminates potential finger pointing and disputes over accountability. Without single responsibility, the owner can become a middleperson in such disputes. With design-build, the engineer and builder are on the same team and share the same project goals, eliminating accountability disputes.
When two contracts are involved, there is a potential liability gap between what the designer warrants to the owner relative to the completeness and accuracy of the design documents and what the owner warrants to the builder on the same issues. Since it is not uncommon for changes to be required during construction, the owner is caught in this liability gap. A single contract eliminates this gap because overall project responsibility requires, and allows, the design and build members of the team to identify and resolve such differences without involving the owner.
Design-Build Streamlines Project Delivery
A unified team of engineer and builder, experienced at working together on project delivery, allows for a coordinated effort focused on unified goals that optimize both the design and the construction efforts to enhance the overall results and experience for the client. This means completing a project faster, more cost effectively, and with fewer change orders.
The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) has published results of research conducted by the Construction Industry Institute covering projects of varying sizes, types, and sectors that shows significant improvements in schedule and unit cost compared to traditional design-bid-build project delivery approaches (see chart below).