While in recent years the term has seemingly swept the country, You
may wonder, is it just a marketing slogan,… a buzz word,… a hot
button,… or does it really mean something? The concept is really
the reincarnation of a way that things used to be done. For the better
part of history builders were often designers and vice versa and it
was only around the turn of the century that found themselves splitting
Design/Build today gives you the client a seamless cost effective
functional product from one accountable source. It’s a process
that fits the time and lifestyles of today’s busy families providing
a happier solution than the more conventional " get at least
three bids" approach we hear so much about .
Over the years as I’ve learned more and more about the building and
remodeling trades I always sort of wondered about the process where
an architect or designer designs a project and then puts it out to
bid with let’s say three or more contractors for a client. To me that
always seemed the equivalent of shooting an arrow and then drawing
the target around where it hit. Many times the project would then
come in way over the clients budget and it would have to go back to
be redesigned and then put out to bid again thereby adding extra time
and money to the design phase and further delaying the construction
of the project.
To put it in a nutshell Design/Build puts the design phase and the
estimating & planning phases of a project together. Since both
processes take place concurrently the design and pre-construction
planning timeline is shortened. But this only the beginning of the
advantages to design build. With the design team working together
with the production team the design team get feedback on the cost
and time requirements their design efforts will require and the production
team having greater time to familiarize themselves with the projects
design can offer ideas and suggestions for materials and techniques
that can save the client time and money in the construction phase
thereby delivering more bang for the buck on the project. through
Instead of projects budget being the result or afterthought of the
project’s design with the design/build process your design is derived
as a result of your budget . A single contractor works as a team
with an architect or designer during the design phase in order to
accomplish cost efficiency and function while the design is being
A full set of plans, elevations, and other drawings necessary to
visualize the design along with an estimate, specifications, a projected
schedule, and a detailed warranty are provided to the client before
a final contractual commitment to build the project takes place. This
gives the client a more accurate and complete picture of what the
project entails well before the project starts.
The design/build process allows the contractor as project manager
to do as much preplanning as possible before the job, so that when
things are ready to proceed they done in a more efficient and orderly
manner. This enables greater cost efficiencies by more closely
integrating production procedures with the project’s intended design.
From concept to completion, you are working with one firm which manages
the entire process. This eliminates blame shifting, where everyone
claims it’s someone else’s fault, leaving the customer falling through
We were probably all taught to get 3 estimates and we’ve grown very
accustomed to seeing contractors offer free estimates as a way of
marketing their company. Over the years we’ve assumed that this was
the way to get the best possible price for our project and keep the
contractor honest. While there are cases in which this method has
worked well for the client-consumer there countless cases where it
has backfired in reality. Why?
Lack of Detail – Since the contractor faces the risk of not
being chosen for the job, it is difficult to spend the proper time
needed to work on anything but the price. He tends to be hasty and
skimpy on the details of paperwork, because he can’t afford to do
work he doesn’t get paid for. Unfortunately, you need to know exactly
what he is going to do for this price in order to compare it with
other bids, and be confident that the work done will be for the price
Inaccurate Estimate – The contractor bids low in order to
obtain the job, figuring he can make it up in change orders throughout
the job because of the vagueness of his contract. Since the contractor
doesn’t get paid for his time, not a great deal of effort will be
put into researching prices thoroughly, often basing them on what
the client can pay. Usually he will not guarantee compensation for
missed deadlines, nor guarantee the price. This is not fair to you,
the client, especially if your budget is limited.
Many Conflicts – When nothing is stated in detail, either
on paper or in plans, both client and contractor have their own version
of the project. This is the beginning of many arguments, mistrust
Most Jobs Take Longer Than Planned – The reason should be
obvious. Until the contractor gets paid, he won’t do much. A well-managed
project must have a lot of preparation before construction begins,
or else delays may occur. Coordination problems, special orders not
arriving on time, scheduling problems with subcontractors, legal requirements,
selections not made, materials not shipped, and other problems all
cause the job to take at least 50% longer than Design/Build. This
results in the nightmare of having your house torn apart!
The Initial Consultation – A representative of the company
or design/build team you’re considering will usually come to your
home and listen to your ideas, needs and design concepts, discuss
general prices, define a budget, and explain the Design/Build process
they work with.
Preliminary Designs – Upon signing a contract for preliminary
designs, a designer or draftsman will take measurements and photos
of your property, prepare fundamental sketches, and give a more
detailed cost outline of the project. Once the client has decided
on a perspective for the project a contract for Design/Build is
signed, and sketches are usually given to the client.
The Design/Build Agreement – During this phase a full set
of plans is drawn which includes a site plan, side elevations, foundation
plan, floor plan, framing layout, roof lines, a door schedule, window
schedule, an appliance and fixture schedule, a room finish schedule,
and specifications. In addition, a comprehensive construction contract
proposal with terms and conditions for the scope and cost of work
is provided. Any engineering reports or city requirements are pursued
at this time and upon signing a construction contract, the client
receives the plans.
The Construction Contract – Anything that has been discussed
between the designer or design team and the client must be written,
or else it will not be considered part of the agreement between
client and contractor. Any additions or changes that the client
wishes to have done at this point are generally approached and
executed through written change orders to the contract.
Project Preparation – Generally after a construction contract
is signed, the contractor will need four to twelve weeks to prepare
the project properly depending upon the projects size and scope .Product
selections made consulting with the client and the design/build
team prepares material lists, subcontract agreements, schedule charts,
job folders, special orders (so that they can be stocked before
construction starts), job cost budgets, material purchase shopping,
utilities are ordered, and personnel is scheduled.
Pre-Construction Conference – Typically before work commences,
the client, project manager, and lead carpenter meet to discuss
and further clarify the scope of the project and make any final
adjustments necessary that are of concern. The actual construction
work should begin soon after this.
Construction Start – Now that everything has been properly
prepared while outside your home, the work can be done in an expeditions
You Can Save Money– I’d like to stress the word can because
when design/build is properly executed and the design and project
management teams are working together in the design process, cost efficient
means of construction can be designed into the project from the beginning.
It’s amazing how you find was to do things on a budget when you have
to. The security of the client’s commitment to the project in the
early stages helps the contractor to reciprocate with reduced costs.
Since the contractor has intimate knowledge of cost effective construction
techniques and materials design concepts can be developed from the
beginning that reflect a realistic understanding of construction costs
and the budget guidelines established by the client. Additionally
contractor as a design/builder has more time to gather the best prices
from vendors, as opposed to the short time commonly allowed in the
competitive bidding process.
Collaborative decision making between the design and construction
staff as opposed to the hierarchical approach found in competitive
bid, saves time and ensures the most cost-effective, maintenance-free,
energy saving building possible. While the design staff focuses on
what should be built and how it will look, the construction staff
focuses on how it will be built and what it will cost.
It Takes Less Time – From concept to completed project the
design/build approach requires less time than the competitive bid
approach. Several events may occur simultaneously, such as design,
regulatory approvals, financing, price planning and scheduling. Paradigm
having singular control of the schedule and is therefore in a better
position to expedite the whole process. Your home is torn up for a
shorter period of time, since a good portion of the work is done before
construction begins. The direct communications between the client
and Paradigm can also prevent delays caused by unanswered questions
or slow information transfer. Change orders can be implemented quickly
at a minimum cost.
More Cost Efficient Design- Since the project being designed
is going to be built by workers and trade contractors that are all
included as part of the planning process, the plans and specifications
need not be as comprehensive as they would ordinarily be in a competitive
bid project . The cost of architectural work typically ranges from
2 to 5 percent of the total project cost with Paradigm design/build,
as opposed to the 5 to 12 percent architectural firms often charge
in competitive bid arrangements.
Better Craftsmanship – Since the project manager has a hand
in the design, construction materials and methods with which the company
and crew are familiar are designed into the project. This means better
management and a more efficient use of skills and company expertise.
Because the Paradigm staff is so fully in control, we have a strong
incentive to make certain that all details-from design through construction
are properly addressed.
Reduced Hassles – The client’s administrative role is dramatically
reduced, for he or she must no longer facilitate communications between
an architect and a contractor. In addition, the design/build approach
requires only one set of financial and communication records. Since
Paradigm assumes all responsibility for planning, design, pricing,
and constructing the project coordination and oversight activities,
as well as inter-party communications, are all enhanced.
Passing the Buck Is Eliminated- By limiting the number of
"chiefs," the client is exposed to less buck-passing than
often occurs in competitive bid projects. Questions pertaining to
the clarity completeness, or "constructability" of the plans
and specifications are eliminated along with the legal exposure posed
by multiple parties.
Less Conflict – Most contractors strive for excellence. When
details aren’t spelled out and addressed in advance, conflict
between the contractor and client usually ensues. Since most contractors
"wing it," these decisions are made in a forced context
where a contract is already signed. With Design/Build, a commitment
to do work takes place after these items are discussed.
A Friendly Relationship With Your Contractor – Since there
is plenty of time for the contractor to demonstrate character in advance
of the actual construction the potential for conflict is reduced,
there is a much better opportunity to become friends before work ever
commences. You’d rather have a friend working on your house,
It’s not a panacea. The success of a design/Build project is predicated
upon initial trust in the abilities of the Design/Build team. Any
advantages that there might be to the traditional competitive bid
While Design/Build is our preferred method or work there are other
formats which depending on the project might be better suited to a
particular clients needs.
- Negotiated Contracts: Usually a hybrid or combination
of methods whereby the final construction documents and scope of
work is modified because of budget restrictions.
- Cost / Plus: A method that has no fixed contract
price with the possible exception of a not to exceed ceiling price.
This procedure is best used in a situation where there are numerous
unknown conditions that can effect the work throughout the construction
- Competitive Bid: Occasionally a client may
approach us with a complete set of plans already in hand and they
have real interest in us performing the work to execute the project.
The most popular and well known method of contract work. We will
provide limited bid proposals in a pre-qualified situation.