Delivering Success with Design-Build

Headshot of HAWA engineer Chris Gleich
Chris Gleich, Principal

For a long time, design-build has been a method of project delivery for both large and small projects. It was primarily used in the private marketplace until the State of Ohio adopted a higher cap on design-build direct hire projects. The previous cap was around $50,000, which any institution under state regulations could use for direct hire work. State institutions could hire contractors without going through the extended public bid method for selecting contractors, but the complete cost of the project, including all design work and construction, had to be under $50,000. The low dollar amount of this method prevented much work from being completed, and it forced many small projects to go through the full state process, costing time and money. A few years ago, the state adopted a higher value of more than $200,000, which opened a lot of small renovation and repair projects to this faster delivery method.

A large market for these $200,000 design-build projects started to develop at universities and other state institutions as the advantages of using a pre-approved list of contractors, engineers and architects to bid and do the work became evident. As the number of these projects has increased, so has the number of contractors, engineers and architects trying to enter the market. However, many companies soon discover that this market, like others, is not built for everyone. Treating these small jobs as a regular design-bid-build project is a recipe for disaster. To successfully complete the small projects and remain profitable, a company needs to be nimble and flexible – they need to have a good stable core of subs, architects and engineers with whom to design and construct the project. The more projects done together, the more efficient the team gets with the process. Contractors learn what the engineers and architects require, and vice versa. This becomes a winning formula for both the construction side and the owner side. A stable design and construction group can provide a consistent product, at a fair price, and in a timely manner for an owner. It can also save them from having to commit a large amount of time and resources to managing their project. New people to the market tend to over-design, over-promise and under-deliver.

The type of project manager and owner overseeing the jobs can also greatly affect how the project will proceed. Some of them have never seen these types of projects before they are thrown into them, so it’s best to set expectations early on as to what type of project will be delivered and how. This will make later discussions about the final product, changes or field conditions easier to have. 

While the nature of design-build projects has changed over time, it basically comes down to the same old formula: a good team that can be trusted to get the work done correctly and on time. This is what makes an owner call back that team for future work and opens the door to future projects with different clients. After all, if we can meet or exceed the owners’ expectations and still make a profit in the end, then it is truly a win for everyone. 

If you’re interested in learning more about what HAWA can bring to your design-build team, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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