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Design-build construction: a collaborative approach

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The rise in popularity of the design-build construction process has been occurring for the past decade. According to the Design Build Institute of America it is currently employed in over a third of all U.S non-residential construction projects. The technique has become widely used because it ensures a reliable project delivery process where the designer and general contractor work in tandem with the building owner.

The designer creates the demolition plan, floor plan, reflected ceiling plan, desired power plan and detail pages along with site plan and path of travel. Once these specifications are provided to the contractor, the preliminary pricing can come together. It is the contractor's responsibility to develop the project engineering, typically including the plumbing, mechanical and electrical engineering that are then incorporated within the contractor's proposal. These engineers - commonly referred to as consultants - become the contractor's responsibility for oversight and timely plan development.

The most important aspect of a design-build project is that one entity provides a single-source contact to the owner and assumes liability for any non-design issues and the coordination of all team members. Since all team members have the same goals and are contracted through the general contractor, it allows for a reduction of costs and establishes a fast-track project schedule.

"At Rhule Construction, about 60 percent of our projects use the design-build approach," said Dave Smith, vice president of Rhule Construction Co. "This method is successful because it allows for the general contractor to have control over the engineering consultants, scope of work and budget, so there is less opportunity for project related change orders."

There are many obstacles that a contractor will face in order to deliver a successful project. The integrity of the budget and schedule become paramount concerns, as well as putting together a great team of engineer consultants and subcontractors. Effective communication between the owner, designer and contractor is the most important element in the design-build process.

As the construction industry continues to evolve, the adoption of the design-build process and other collaborative efforts will redefine the way we do business.


Rhule Construction Co. is a general contractor and tenant improvement specialist company.

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