• Schedule: The project timeframe will have an outsize impact
on selection of delivery methodology. If you have a short lead
time and a drop dead move-in date, you need to think hard
and realistically about how to best deliver the project. Bringing
a highly collaborative, experienced full team to the table from
the outset can dramatically shorten the project delivery time-line. Several methods can accomplish that objective. Recently,
SMRT Architects and Engineers delivered a 640,000 square foot
LEED Gold hospital ten months ahead of schedule as part of an
Integrated Project Delivery team. Among other schedule-cutting
strategies, the architects and engineers handed off drawings to the
contractors for detail work, major components of the building
were pre-fabricated onsite, and the co-located team from designers to major subcontractors were working together under one
roof for the duration of the project.
• Your own level of expertise: This is a time to be brutally truthful in
your evaluation of your own experience, compared against the size
and complexity of the proposed project. Building a greenfield clean
manufacturing facility isn’t a yearly event in most people’s careers.
It’s what you don’t know that can be a career killer. Getting experts
on board early, whether through design-build, construction management, or IPD, can save you a universe of headaches and costs.
• Risk tolerance and risk assignment: Project construction is
a risky undertaking. As the owner, it’s important to evaluate
your organization’s level of risk tolerance, while also ensuring
that potential risks are appropriately allocated and assumed by
How to decide
Every delivery method has its pros and cons, with attributes that may
make it more applicable to a specific set of circumstances. While this
column only allows a brief overview, below are some primary considerations for the four major delivery methods outline above.
• Design-Bid-Build (DBB): While DBB is the “grandfather” of
construction delivery methods, DBB generally is not the go-to
when time is of the essence, as design documents must be fully
developed before the contractor can be procured and construction begins. This tends to drag out project schedules. DBB can
also lead to increased change orders, and the risk of conflict can
be high as the designer, engineer, and contractor will each likely
have independent contracts with the owner, and collaboration
between the contractor and designer during the design phase is
typically non-existent. While DBB offers clear roles among the
parties and because of its long term use is generally well understood, the assessment of realistic schedule and cost may be more
limited during the design phase, while the lack of contractor
input can, in some cases, lead to issues of constructability later.
The contractor may also opt for low cost selection of subcontractors, with the potential to undermine quality and scope.
• Construction Management (CM): The two most cited advantages to CM are the ability to have a contractor’s input during
the design phase, and the opportunity to compress the construction schedule when compared to DBB. In the first, the
CM can assist with issues like constructability, projected cost,
and materials. In the latter, the CM can undertake construction
before the design is fully executed, and even detail segments of
the design. The most cited pitfall is the potential for disputes
over assumptions made about what is included in the guaranteed maximum price, and the handling of subcontractor
bids—in short, transparency. Other common disputes involve
completeness of design, quality of construction, and of course
budget. Many contracts under this method include a provision
that the construction manager’s books, including subcontractor
bids, be fully open and transparent.
• Design Build (DB): Design Build has grown in popularity, primarily because its simplified contractual structure allows projects to be
completed more quickly, with the contractor and designer/engineer acting as a team under one owner contract, with the designer/
engineer typically contracting directly with the contractor. With a
single party accountable for project execution, and the contractor
and designer/engineer working together as a team through the
entire project, costs can be reduced. Additionally, constructability is
addressed from the outset which tends to reduce change orders. In
fact, most change orders are initiated by the owner. This structure,
however, may put more responsibility on the owner, who must be
decisive and respond to requests for information or decision in a
timely manner as DB moves at a faster pace.
• Integrated Project Delivery (IPD): The newest project delivery
contender, IPD is constructed on a multi-party agreement with
the owner, CM and general contractor, architect, engineer, and
many times the major subcontractors, knitting these possibly
antagonistic parties into a single, collaborative team. The goals
are to optimize quality and efficiency from initial design concept
through occupancy, while reducing schedule, time, cost, and
waste. On the plus side, the team functions as a single entity,
totally aligned to the project goals. Issues that arise during proj-
ect execution tend be viewed as “everyone’s problem to solve”
without playing the blame game. IPD takes the best components
of DB and CM, and expands the concept into a new arena.
However, because the concept is relatively new, contract negotia-
tions and establishing an insurance program can be challenging.
Because success is so heavily dependent upon true collaboration,
an uncooperative party can have outsized detrimental effects on
the project. The team should move quickly to remove non-play-
ers. For more, see my earlier column on IPD: http://www.cemag.
Project delivery methods will continue to evolve, mutating as new
technologies and materials enable different approaches and the barri-
ers between designer, contractor, and owner continue to dissolve. For
today’s facilities professional, staying up-to-date on the possibilities
can mean smoother projects, significant savings in dollars and sched-
ule, and a superior facility.
Richard Bilodeau, PE, is director of engineering at SMRT Architects
and Engineers ( www.smrtinc.com). His 30 year career includes plant
engineering positions in clean manufacturing. Richard has engineered,
designed, operated, and supervised the construction of numerous controlled environments and labs for advanced technology, life sciences, industrial, healthcare, academic, and corporate clients. Dick can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or TheFacilitiesGuy@smrtinc.com
Collaborative planning sessions involving
construction, and major
from the early stages of a
project are trending.