The success of a construction project is based on two factors: design and delivery. Whether it be a 3-bid method of project delivery or a Fast Track design-build model, each factor exposes the strengths and weaknesses of the construction industry. The cost and scale of building design will directly impact the choice of delivery for the project.
During the bid process questions often come up in the form of Request for Information (RFI) inquiries. Formally submitting these requests, allow contractors to question the feasibility of design parameters created during the pre-construction phase. In addition to the competitive bidding period, the RFI process can add a substantial amount of time to project development, delaying construction schedules by weeks or months.
A lack of information up-front is an easy way to overlook key design parameters that can later have a negative effect on the client’s budget. A Fast Track design-build project will shrink this period by controlling the flow of information in-house and addressing these issues from the beginning.
However, in applications where a quick turnaround is essential for the success of the project, the 3-bid approach offers a system where submitting RFI’s during the bid phase, will reveal future change orders that may be required to move the project forward. Time can be an issue when a building owner only has a few months or even weeks to get a space ready for a new tenant. In this situation RFIs and change orders can allow contractors to be ready for a shift in the critical path.
For smaller scale projects that fall in the six figure range and below, it could make practical sense to select a 3-bid style. A design-build firm operating with higher overhead, due to having more resources under a single roof, may not be able to offer a cost effective solution. Although there are many benefits to hiring a contractor with in-house sources of engineering, fabrication and project management – a low cost construction service may not be one of them.
Historically speaking, many clients who execute projects of this nature have chosen the low bidder due to operational or budgetary restrictions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but could have to do with the culture of the facility or group who is hired to manage the project. Spending extra money to contract a company with a highly technical portfolio probably doesn’t make good financial sense on every project.
The down-side of selecting a low bidder is the potential to add unanticipated change orders after the project has been awarded. This can be avoided by properly qualifying contractors or subs with a de-scope meeting to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal when defining the scope of work.
Large Scale Technical Projects
Highly technical, mechanically driven projects that reach into seven figure and above budgetary guidelines, may require a more surgical approach to construction management and project delivery. The adoption of a Fast Track Delivery System using a design-build approach may offer a means of simplification for a very complicated process. By selecting a contractor with a proven track record, and the required resources at their disposal, a client can alleviate many of the disturbances experienced on large scale construction projects from the beginning.
For example, projects that are mechanically driven require a certain area of expertise to successfully emerge from the construction phase. If there are highly technical systems needed in a facility requiring heavy design and engineering, selecting a trusted design-build firm may offer the best solution. This is especially important when projects qualify for energy incentive programs, grants or tax rebates. In this situation, choosing a firm who can provide a real turn-key service to contractually perform many of the construction tasks in-house is an important consideration.
Optimal performance and sustainable design are the goals of today’s construction industry, saving the client from stress, time, and unforeseen capital expenditures. Using an open book policy to establish guaranteed maximum pricing and transparency upfront, contractors are attracting clients who are looking for an alternate approach to construction.
Contractors who have the resources, and are willing to adapt this sustainable business design, voluntarily place themselves in a contractual responsibility to deliver a code compliant design that meets financial and performance goals for their client.
Many of today’s buildings are constructed to meet rigorous standards. If not held within strict design parameters, a building can easily experience performance issues leading to excessive utility bills and unhappy tenants. Alternately, a building that’s well constructed, and governed by a resourceful contractor, can incorporate all the benefits of a certified building without a LEED or Energy Star rating. The project should automatically be on-track to perform to these standards, while offering real time value to the client with the added bonus of qualifying for the performance certification after the fact.
3-Bid or Design-Build Approach
The nature of a construction project will directly impact a client’s decision to select the 3-bid process or a design-build approach. It’s difficult to say which is more important and why. One conclusion that can be given is that both are integral to the construction industry, each having a significant purpose. The application of the design-build approach may not make sense for the interior renovation of an office building. On the flip side, the 3-bid process may not make the best sense for a client who is looking to build an on-site source of combined heat and power. It’s the practical approach, which examines the feasibility of good design in the beginning that counters poor delivery in the end.