Governor Cuomo expands the use of Design-Build

February 14 Chris Kelly

Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation to give all state agencies and county-level governments outside of New York City authority to use design-build as a construction project delivery method. Many people outside of the construction field are unaware there are different project delivery methods. To simplify the explanation of the methods, it helps to understand there are three principal parties in the process, the owner, the design team/ architect, and the contractor. The three most popular delivery methods are:

Design Bid Build – In this model the Owner hires the architect they create a budget, design the project, and the plans are then sent out to contractors for bid. Contractors submit estimates for construction and general conditions. The general conditions commonly include site and project management costs like trailers and employee time. If all of the contractor’s bids come in over budget, the architect is forced to redesign the job, and then contractors are asked to rebid. The time it takes to redesign and rebid a job can prove very costly for a multitude of reasons including changes in interest rates and materials costs. When a contractor is awarded the project, they are asked to build what is on the drawings, and any mistakes in the drawings result in change orders. The change orders can create a potentially hostile relationship between the design team and the contractor which often results in the owner having to pay more to address mistakes and issues. The more delays during construction, the more the owner pays in general conditions. The design bid build method is currently what most municipalities use for constructing their projects.

At-Risk Construction Management – Using this delivery method the owner still has separate contracts with the contractor and design team but the parties work more collaboratively. The contractor is brought on in the design phase to help provide field knowledge, cost estimating, scheduling, construction logistics, and value engineering. This method often results in better budget management. The contractor is involved before the design of a project is completed, which allows estimates to influence the project scope. Decisions can be made to modify the design concept, instead of having to spend a considerable amount of time, effort, and money redesigning and modifying completed construction documents. The contractor commits to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price (in most cases), and the owner can hire construction professionals before the completion of design and bidding documents.

Design Build – The Design-Build method is similar to the Construction Management delivery method but the owner contracts directly with the Design-Builder, who is responsible for both the design and construction. The design-builder prepares project criteria in conjunction with the owner and then provides a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) early in the process. The design and construction staffs work together as a team; this expedites the timetable because construction can proceed in one area of a project while other areas are still in design.

Ken Abrami, Vice President of Construction Operations, shared his thoughts “The Design-Build approach from a construction standpoint provides the Builder the ability to collaborate with the Design Team on the selection of the most efficient systems and materials that meet the Client’s program. Interaction during design affords the Design team with intimate knowledge of what products comply with the intent and are potentially faster to fabricate and install. TRITEC’s success utilizing the Design/Build format affords us the ability to “fast-track” the design process of the early construction activities which accelerates the work of items like sitework and structure components while the internal layout, distribution, and finishes are still under Owner consideration. If an issue arises, it is handled by the members of the Design-Builder’s construction and design team usually with a faster turnaround because all parties are working together towards a common goal. It also provides the Owner with the Design-Builder as a single source for accountability, and they no longer need to get caught in between the Contractor and Architect. We have been able to complete some of our largest projects faster and more cost-effectively using the Design-Build method.”

Martin A. DePasquale, AIA, Vice President of Reconstruction Services and Registered Architect, said “From a design professionals point of view, it is important that the Owner, Architect, and Contractor establish a comprehensive program. The program should include a needs assessment for space, MEP systems, structure, finishes, and equipment, before settling on cost so that all team members agree on the final product. Design-Build projects tend to be price-driven, and if the team does not outline a comprehensive program upfront then cost will dictate what gets installed, and the Owner is sometimes surprised at what he receives versus what he thought he was going to get.”

TRITEC prefers to work as a Construction Manager or Design Builder because of the collaborative team approach. These project delivery methods allow for the owner, the design team, the contractor and even subcontractors to influence the design of the project while formulating budgets and scope. It is the opinion of the TRITEC organization that New York State would be wise to move forward in making this a preferred project delivery method.

Design professionals TRITEC has worked with are providing their thoughts on the design-build delivery format.

Alex Badalamenti, AIA President / CEO at bld architecture shared his thoughts,  “Interesting article expanding the use of design-build (DB) services. We’ve done approximately $ 200 million dollars of design-build work in the past few years with great success. Key is that projects and DB teams are quality based.”

Andrew J. Solano, Business Development Officer at Emtec Consulting Engineers provided his thoughts “In response to Governor Cuomo’s expression of interest in the expansion of Design-Build as it relates to state agencies; practicing this project delivery method as a common practice is an intriguing initiative. Having been involved in a number of DB projects over the years, we find this project delivery method to have its advantages. From an Engineering standpoint it provides the engineering team with a clear and concise vision for a project, optimizing the communication path amongst all levels of the project team. While the Design-Bid-Build approach differs, where separate entities can have different motivations and ideas; in the end, all parties have a common goal and must communicate appropriately, otherwise the project may have “bumps” along the way. Having all parties involved in all phases from start to finish allows us, as design and construction professionals, to deliver a high quality end product.

“As a younger individual in the industry, it appears the Design-Build project approach will become more prevalent as we can see by Cuomo’s expressed interest in this practice. To take this a little further, and out of the box … with the introductions of new technology into our industry i.e. Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR), this methodology of visual perspective of a project could enhance how we approach projects of the future. In summation, Design-Build can have an impact on several components when considering a construction project, including but not limited to cost & schedule, reduced risk, higher quality, and evolving project drivers.”

For more information about project delivery methods email Martin DePasquale, AIA, TRITEC’s Vice President of Reconstruction Services.