In the good-ol-days, building something was straight forward. The architect designed it, it was put out to tender, you chose a builder and they built it according to the design. It was linear, time consuming, cumbersome, adversarial and we liked it!
More recently, however, we have this newfangled design-build thing taking over. In the design-build scenario, the owner simply gives the builder his requirements describing the outcome he’s looking for. The builder does everything else. He hires the architect and other consultants himself. He designs and builds the structure to meet the owner’s requirements. A detailed set of bidding documents is not required. In fact, work can begin almost immediately and design can proceed concurrently with construction, saving valuable time and money. The arrangement encourages innovation and discovery of cost saving measures. It also tends to prevent squabbles between the designer and the builder.
“He’s not building it right!”
“No, it’s because she didn’t design it right!”
Yes, exactly like that, with the owner in the middle. With design-build, the owner has a single source supplier and any finger pointing is done by the owner.
A strong argument against design-build is that the design-builder does not necessarily have the owner’s best interests in mind. An architect that is accountable only to the owner will be more likely to suggest design elements beneficial to the owner, even if these are more difficult, time consuming or costly to the builder. The owner’s architect will also refuse to accept substitutions and changes proposed by the builder for immediate cost savings when he knows from experience that these will perform poorly or increase operating costs over the longer term. And squabbling between builder and architect can be minimized by choosing highly professional firms.
Essentially it comes down to how attentive to detail the owner is willing or able to be. In the case of the more traditional model where the architect works for the owner, the owner can depend on the architect to look after all the details. The design-build scenario can save an owner a lot of time, money and project management headaches, but means that the owner must be very careful about providing well thought out requirements up front.
Image Credit: Sign Age