Which Method is the Better?
So, you’re thinking about embarking on a significant build—maybe opening up some interior space by removing a few existing walls, or perhaps adding a second storey to your existing home, or even building an entirely new home altogether.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, the first major decision you must face is what approach to take: Should you get your blueprints designed by an independent architect first, then shop the completed blueprints around among a range of bidding builders? Or should you hire the services of a single company qualified to design your dream home and bring the final product to life?
These two approaches—referred to in the construction industry as Design/Bid/Build (DBB) and Design & Build (D&B)—have been in wide use for well over one hundred years. But which method is better for you, the property owner?
For the past century, the DBB system has been the most common approach in North American construction. However, over the past decade, the trend has shifted decidedly in favour of the integrated Design & Build method. And the reasons are clear: The Design & Build management system is consistently proving to be less expensive, less time-consuming and less risky for the vast majority of residential projects.
Higher costs, longer completion times and more frequent litigation under the Design/Bid/Build method have recently been documented by several independent studies. For example, a 2009 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) report found that, when compared with comparably sized D&B projects, the Design/Bid/Build method takes, on average, 33.5 percent longer and costs 6.1 percent more to complete. Similar conclusions were found in a comparison study of D&B versus DBB projects in a 2011 peer-reviewed paper authored by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Six Key Benefits of the Design & Build Approach
So, why is the Design & Build system becoming the preferred method within the North American residential construction industry? Six key benefits are consistently noted:
1. Singular Responsibility
The traditional Design/Bid/Build method forces the client to play the difficult, highly technical and time-consuming role of bridging, between two independent companies with competing priorities and interests, the design phase with the subsequent build phase.
In contrast, the Design & Build system places the entire responsibility of the construction—from initial concepts to final build—in the hands of one integrated company operating under one unified design and build management process. And the benefits are clear: The design stage continues uninterrupted throughout the actual build phase, while key logistical build issues are considered and monitored during the initial design phase.
A fully licensed D&B contractor offers a single point of responsibility for all design, permit acquisition, engineering, quality control, cost and schedule management. Under this preferred approach, Clients can focus on functional and aesthetic decisions rather than worry about keeping designers and builders on the same page throughout the long process of conceiving and completing a major build.
Perhaps the most important benefit of the D&B approach is that it motivates the contractor to deliver maximum quality and project performance at the lowest overall price, since there simply is no opportunity to lay blame on someone else for design flaws and unnecessary costs. The Client’s expectations are documented and it is the Design & Build contractor’s sole responsibility to meet those expectations.
TFIN Design & Build guarantees that our blueprints are free from error, are fully compliant with local building codes, and are designed to minimize total project costs and timelines. In contrast, the traditional Design/Bid/Build approach forces the Client to guarantee that drawings and specifications provided to the contractor are complete, code compliant and error free. And, because the Client must warrant the design documents under the DBB system, this approach relies on highly restrictive contract language, audits, inspections and, too often, litigation to ensure the final product is completed to acceptable quality standards.
3. Cost Savings
It should be intuitive that using two suppliers will generally be more expensive than using one. Independent designers, architects and engineers operate under a business model that provides maximum profitability in designing blueprints, not in managing construction projects, subtrades and building inspections. Conversely, professional builders know through hands-on experience where cost efficiencies exist within the building process and, too often, take issue with several design issues included in someone else’s blueprints.
TFIN Design & Build, working and communicating as one unified team of designers, craftsmen and project managers, employ value engineering, a unified management system that continually evaluates a wide range of potential approaches and materials throughout the entire design and build process, from the initial design stage to final construction, to ensure the best final results are achieved at the lowest total cost to the Client.
4. Time Savings
Total design and construction time are reduced significantly under the Design & Build approach—on average 33 percent faster than the traditional Design/Bid/Build system. This is because design and construction are integrated, and because bidding and redesign phases are eliminated entirely. In fact, TFIN’s Design & Build approach is ideal for fast track projects: Materials and equipment procurement, and construction work can begin even before the blueprints are fully completed and permits received. The resulting time savings translate into additional cost savings for the Client.
5. Reduced Administrative & Legal Burdens
Traditional Design/Bid/Build projects place a significant administrative and legal burden directly on the Client. Preparing RFPs (requests for proposals) and conducting informed evaluations of various design options can be very difficult and time consuming, especially for the Client who is new to the construction process. In contrast, the Client who relies on the Design & Build method is not required to invest any time or money coordinating and arbitrating between separate design and construction suppliers.
6. Early Knowledge of Final Costs
Construction costs are known far earlier under the Design & Build approach than with other delivery systems. TFIN Design & Build takes responsibility for design while simultaneously estimating construction costs at an early stage, accurately conceptualizing the completed build costs while the project is still in design. This approach offers the Client several go/no-go decision points to proceed with the project or to change course, before substantial design and pre-build expenditures are made, and with a firm knowledge of the total costs the final construction will incur.
In the end, perhaps the most appealing advantages the TFIN Design & Build system offers over the traditional Design/Bid/Build approach are greater convenience, lower cost, shorter timelines, reduced risk and better results for the Client. A single contractor is held responsible for every step of the project—from design, construction, permit acquisition and inspections, to budget and schedule management, legal liability, warranties and streamlined billing.
As a result, the TFIN Design & Build approach is increasingly acknowledged to be the better way to manage construction projects today.