Project Delivery Approach

Recently a potential client asked me to provide a quote for a gym he wanted to build.  He had hired an architect to provide a schematic drawing and code analysis and he had several conceptual drawings from the franchise he was considering buying into.  Additionally, I reviewed the site and identified some issues that I believed needed to be addressed that were not on the drawings. Based on this broad and general information I was able to provide a square foot price  of between $50 to $100.00.  The wide range was due to the lack of detail on the drawings and the absence of any material specifications.  Understandably the client had a desire for more accurate pricing and wanted to know exactly what he was buying.  Regrettably, I was unwilling to provide this information.  Primarily because our firm is very busy and we did not have the resources to provide a “free estimate” based on a design we would have to undertake that ultimately the client may or may not accept.  I recommended the client take one of two approaches to getting a design that met his needs and his budget; Either a design-bid-build approach or a design-build approach.

With a design-bid-build approach the client or Owner,  retains an Architect to provide detailed plans and specifications of the building layout and the materials and equipment used in the construction. The Owner and Architect then invite several contractors to provide a competitive bid for the work.   The advantages of this method are the client knows exactly what they are buying and the contractors are all bidding on the same work.  Prices may vary based on a contractor’s purchasing power or skill level, however when reviewing prices the client is comparing “apples to apples” in terms of the scope of work and quality of materials. Assuming the contractors are equally qualified the Owner often goes with the lowest bidder.

With a design-build approach the Owner selects an Architect and Contractor based on their qualifications and understanding of their needs rather than solely on price.  Broadly speaking the Architect is responsible for providing a design that satisfies the building code and meets the client’s operational and aesthetic needs. The Contractor is responsible for providing a detailed cost analysis of the various design, material, and equipment options that the Architect may offer during the course of the design.  Here lies the advantage of design-build; cost are controlled during design by tapping into the contractor’s knowledge of construction and materials.   Design build requires a level of trust and teamwork between the client, designer, and builder.  Yet, I believe the client gains a better understanding of what they are buying and how much it will cost throughout the design and build process.