Design/build has been with us for thousands of years––probably since the 15th-century Incas built their great empires in Peru. As meticulous workers who knew how to build structures that would last an eternity, they worked as a unified team to deliver impenetrable fortresses.

Today, the state of design/build holds a firm grip as the project system delivery of choice for many customers. Gone are the days when contractors, designers and consultants automatically operated as separate entities on a project. Teamwork is now of essence and customers are being offered the appealing advantage and convenience of one-stop shopping––one entity is responsible for both design and construction.

The advantages are many. Rather than just bidding on a project’s specifications, contractors now assess the client’s needs early and remain a critical part of the planning process. Overall time to build and design various projects is reduced since construction and design processes overlap. Bidding periods are eliminated. Clients deal with a single source for all matters and the chances for misunderstandings are reduced. Design professionals and contractors work as a solid team to generate ideas and create solutions instead of conflicts. End-users and contractors interact directly and make decisions together. Trust is established and the team effort produces creative results.

It is critical to remember that design/build remains a customer-driven market; therefore it is important to educate the customer of its benefits. Selling and buying the concept will become easier once a contractor takes the time to discuss project requirements, concerns and lists major advantages.

Up-front investments for design/build services—such as the latest computer software and hardware—may act as a hurdle for contractors. Once overcome, however, they will make the job easier to complete. Continuous upgrades will reflect well on all parties involved. And although design and construction have been seen as separate profit centers for many years, combining the two will, in due time, create a substantial return on investment.

“The State of Design/Build” (page 22) by John Fulmer is this issue’s main Focus piece, highlighting the key points of design/build practices relevant to electrical contractors. You will discover all about the advantages of single-source responsibility, potential drawbacks, general views and much more. Claire Swedberg’s Focus on computer-aided design (CAD) technology (page 32) discusses why such software is increasing in use by all contractors in the design/build process.

So remember, although you may not have been assigned the arduous task of building King Pachacuti’s Peruvian palace on an unstable mountain slope prone to landslides, your customer may expect a similar level of creativity and require a similar solid end-result. Don’t hold back; just keep in mind that design/build is a multifaceted process that can help your company reach new heights of success. EC

STANIMIRA Z. STEFANOVA, Associate Editor