With over 35 years of experience as a practicing architect, Mike Schmieder has successfully completed hundreds of projects utilizing all the methods of project delivery: Design-Bid, CM at Risk, Design-Build, and Integrated Design-Build. Enjoy this conversation with Mike.
1. We’ve tried a Design-Build project before, but it was challenging and the entire team was at odds throughout the project, especially at the end. How will Integrated Design-Build be different?
The concerns with Design-Build project success can almost always be traced back to two or more different design firms joining forces with a builder for a single project. Sometimes trouble can begin when the firms are located in different cities or if they utilize different corporate CAD software systems. As a result, coordination can be challenging due to this separation of services.
In Design-Bid or CM at Risk projects, the client holds a separate contract with each entity. If there is an error or omission, the client is typically in the position of having warranted the construction documents to the point of becoming the arbitrator for all design and construction disputes. Dollars and days are then spent in conflict resolution rather than constructing quality work-in-place.
In addition, the lines of communication and subordination in project organization charts can actually induce conflict rather than prevent it and some responsibilities are never clear-cut enough to begin corrective action.
The more the designer and builder are able to collaborate, the more certain a successful outcome. The Egyptians built their pyramids under the design and control of the “master builder,” producing structures that endure to this day. Why has the conventional design and construction industry allowed what worked so well for thousands of years to become a collection of contractually splintered efforts? This is confounding but may be related to maximizing profit margins as a priority. By transferring liability exposure to others, quality and service may also be compromised.
The Integrated Design-Build business model as practiced by Haskell, remains a design-driven process where design is king. Working together with builders makes designers better because complex and costly details are vetted to become cost-effective and constructible and, in return, builders become better because they learn to respect what designers bring to the table. As a result the entire team conceives of the best most cost-effective way to build the design the client expects without impacting quality. Haskell has had many first time clients express appreciation for finally discovering a project delivery process that is absent the conflict, change-orders, or arguments that can lead to ill will. Almost 80% of Haskell’s clients are repeat clients and they say they will never complete a project another way in the future.
2. The architect is typically the client’s advocate for price, quality, and schedule with design-only contracts. How can the client retain control of the Integrated Design-Build project when the architect is working for the contractor?
Haskell has approximately 120 architectural and engineering design staff at its Jacksonville, Florida headquarters. With various associate firms joining Haskell in the past eight years, there are about 400 design staff members nationally and internationally. Haskell maintains a deep bench in design talent with experience in designing buildings of many types, sizes, and complexities including municipal, educational, industrial, food and beverage, Department of Defense, wastewater processing and medical.
Although the client will be the de facto designer, Haskell’s architects, engineers, and construction staff will ensure that the design will remain code compliant, cost-effective and constructible. There are many accounts of how gentle, early suggestions from a project’s construction superintendent or estimator who were sitting at the design-table with the rest of the team ended up saving countless thousands in construction costs in addition to increasing the size of the building and shortening the delivery schedule. Clients are members of the Integrated Design-Build team and directly participate in the process of completing a quality, on schedule, and within budget project.
3. How will Integrated Design-Build introduce competitive pricing into the delivery of our project?
Haskell has been implementing its Integrated Design-Build business model for over 50 years, and as a result, we have forged long and strong relationships with legions of subcontractors across the country. Haskell also maintains its own structural steel fabrication facility in Jacksonville, fabricating structural steel framing packages for many of Haskell’s projects. Keeping one foot “on the street” and searching for the right price keeps Haskell steel fabrication extremely competitive.
Design packages are developed for all scopes of work and are all competitively bid to a large contingent of highly competent subcontractors. These competitive pricing efforts are presented in an “open-book” format to the client. The client can participate as much or as little as they choose in the competitive pricing selection process.
4. We have always believed Design-Build only works on simple and repetitive projects like parking garages but certainly not on anything complex. How can we be assured of getting top-quality design solutions with the Design-Build delivery process?
One of the most misunderstood tenets of the contemporary design and construction community is that Design-Build projects are only suited to either simple or repetitive types of projects. Another misconception is that Design-Build projects are forced to accept lower design quality. The Egyptians, who meticulously designed and crafted the pyramids, established the premise that the master builder concept works. Although today’s buildings must comply with established licensing, permitting, and funding, there are similar examples. Haskell’s proton therapy facilities are delivered using design-build to exacting standards and require massive concrete placements along with the coordination of hundreds of miles of piping, conduit, wiring, conductors, and ductwork. Elaborate calculations are also conducted to ensure that the proton beam is not adversely influenced which could cause the medical procedure to fail or the patient to be harmed.
The large majority of Haskell architects and engineers have come from the design-only side of our industry. Why is this happening with increasing regularity? Many public sector clients have been trending to Design-Build delivery for several decades. Due to the economy in recent years, government projects have been funded when many others have not. With increased utilization of Design-Build delivery on these larger, funded projects, members of the design community have migrated to Design-Build firms or have seen their current firms establish Design-Build divisions. Design-Build is one of fastest ways to transfer project liability exposure to another entity. However, it is only when truly Integrated Design-Build is offered that a client will finally gain the desired liability insulation while maintaining complete design control.
5. What are the most compelling reasons to utilize the Integrated Design-Build project delivery method?
In order to answer this question we must understand and support the client’s perspective. Every client expects that their project “vision” will be protected and preserved no matter what happens during the design or construction phases and that the final quality of their facility will exceed typical performance levels. Additional client expectations include fair treatment and insulation from having to deal with change orders, errors, omissions, arguments, and delays. Clients also expect to have options presented when a challenge arises, options that do not always require compromise.
Design-Bid projects position the client to take advantage of a competitive bid market offering the lowest possible cost for their project. However, it has been said that “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” A client should never be subject to this imbalance unless they purposely scope their project to be so.
When the CM at Risk delivery method was increasing its market share years ago, clients who had lost faith in Design-Bid delivery were seeking another way to have input from the builder during design development and transfer as much liability for performance to the builder while attempting to retain as much project control as possible. Clients wanted a delivery method offering higher quality, faster occupancy, and lower cost.
The primary benefits of higher quality, faster occupancy, and lower costs are consistently reinforced on every Integrated Design-Build project. But superior to those benefits, the client retains control of the entire design and construction decision process. Using progressive design-build, the owner has an off ramp if a successful price cannot be negotiated. Using this phased approach the owner works with the team through programming, schematic, design development, and final design phase activities. The activities and deliverables are agreed upon up front and conclude with presentation of a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) proposal before the first shovel of soil is turned. If all is as promised, a mutually acceptable construction contract is executed and construction begins.
Integrated Design-Build eliminates the client’s feeling that they may be taken advantage of and that they must always stay on guard. Rather, Integrated Design-Build projects progress smoothly when stakeholders assemble on the first day and work together for the benefit of the finished project. You never know where good ideas might come from, but with Integrated Design-Build good ideas come from the entire team, a team in which the client is always the central player.
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