Once considered an out-of-the-box process for construction projects, design/build is becoming the preferred delivery method for a growing number of public and private owners, according to FMI Corp.’s Design-Build Utilization study.
“Collaboration and innovation are delivering better projects that also achieve cost and schedule savings, which is especially important as cash-strapped states and communities have to do more with less,” said Lisa Washington, executive director and CEO of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), which commissioned the study.
Design/build construction spending is expected to grow 18 percent from 2018 to 2021 and reach more than $320 billion, comprising as much as 44 percent of total U.S. construction spending during that time period, according to FMI. The greatest percentage of design/build construction will occur in the manufacturing, highway/street and education sectors, and the regions with the highest anticipated growth rates are the Mountain, Pacific and South Atlantic.
More than half of owners who were interviewed for the study say they are using or plan to use the design/build method in the next five years.
A number of factors influence the selection of a project delivery method, the owners told FMI, but the most critical determinants are delivery schedule, owner goals and objectives, and contractor experience and initial cost.
“The critical nature of the project has a major impact to selection, and owners want to ensure that a timely delivery schedule is understood and provides adequate time to successfully deliver the project,” FMI writes.
Initial cost is always a key factor in project delivery selection, and owners told FMI that the use of the design/build method tends to provide the best avenue to achieve the originally identified cost. Design/build also helps architects, engineers and construction managers to better understand the needs of owners, according to the study.
“The ability to get in early and develop strong communication and understanding of what the owner values, provides a solid foundation for successful project delivery,” FMI writes. “Alternative delivery methods provide the ability to work with the owner early on and identify key areas of importance.”
Owners also tend to choose the design/build method if they are able to hire experienced architects, engineers and contractors that have the capability to clearly understand the needs of the owner and can collaborate effectively during the early stages of the project.
Survey respondents mostly expressed favorable opinions about the design/build method, but there were a few caveats.
“We don’t see a lot of the small municipalities taking advantage of design/build, but they might not be the best fit for that delivery method,” one respondent said.
Says another: “Design/build is not for everyone. If there is an owner that doesn’t understand it, they should think twice before using it.”
However, FMI expects continued adoption and greater utilization of the design/build method as more owners, architects, engineers and contractors are educated on the process and benefits associated with it.