Commercial Contractor Design-Build Projects in Arizona

Architecture, building design and construction are not new concepts; they have been an integral part of human history. Consider, for example, the pyramids of Egypt or the Roman aqueducts, still admired as some of the most amazing feats of architecture and construction in history. Of course, construction methods continue to advance in order to provide more efficiency, aesthetic appeal or increased functionality as well as durability and ease of construction; however, there are still a number of construction methods that derive from the past. One of these, regarding the approach to the process, is referred to as design-build, a type of project that uses a single source for both the design and construction aspects. This is considered to be one of the most desirable types of contracts for construction because it reduces the risk involved, for the project owner. The other popular approach is referred to as design-bid-build. This method involves a contract between the owner and the designer (typically an architect and his team of engineers) and another/separate contract between the owner and the builder, usually a general contractor who utilizes multiple subcontractors that specialize in each of the required trades. Although both methods are popular, design-build has several benefits.

Another way to look at Design-Build projects is, they are Bespoke projects, because the building and site are designed and built to your exact specifications, custom made just for you.

How to Approach a Commercial Construction Project

In Phoenix, Scottsdale, Flagstaff, Tucson and throughout Arizona, design-build in the commercial construction industry is considered to be a traditional approach, which makes sense, since this is one of the oldest methods utilized, as is the case throughout most of the country. A single contract approach basically puts the entire operation into the hands of a single company, such as Bespoke Builders. The contractor in charge is responsible for designing the building and constructing it. This can help prevent many of the scheduling and/or cost issues that sometimes arise with design-bid-build projects, the other typical approach. For example, when utilizing separate entities for the design and the construction of a project, the design is typically completed or at least 90% complete before a contractor sees the plans and can begin estimating the costs to build. During the estimating process, questions quite often arise regarding aspects of the design which must be clarified with more detail by the architect or engineer, possibly delaying the schedule to start. Many times, projects are started prior to getting all design questions clarified because of the need to start in order to make a deadline for completion. When design clarifications are made during construction, there are often cost implications and/or delays. For many project owners, the design-build method is the way to go because it reduces the stress involved with having separate contracts for the design and construction.

Design-Build or Design-Bid-Build Contract

Although a design-build contract is typically with the contractor, it is also relatively common to have a design-build contract with an architect, or at times, although less common, with an engineer. Many project owners feel the design-bid-build method provides more control of the project with a means of checks and balances by allowing him or her to implement a chain of command: owner – architect, owner – builder, in which case both the architect and builder report directly to the owner. The engineers in most cases are contracted by the architect as part of his design package, in the same way a general contractor uses trade specific subcontractors for the construction.

In both types of contracts the process breaks down the same – the architect designs the project and uses engineers to provide the specific details regarding the structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical components; the contractor oversees the construction and builds according to what was designed. With a design-bid-build project, the architect’s responsibilities usually stop at the completion of his design, but for an added fee to the owner, he can oversee the construction to ensure the owner gets what he asked for in the design. This is called “Contract Administration”, and will entail the architect visiting the construction site regularly to inspect the materials, layout and construction methods. With multiple contracts and multiple people reporting to the owner, it is easy to see why this type of construction project can be more complicated and more costly.

Design-Bid-Build Projects

As previously mentioned, with a design-bid-build project, the contractor rarely sees the plans while they are being developed, and if given the opportunity it is when the plans are 90% complete so the owner can obtain budget pricing from contractors. That being the case, the contractor has no input as to the type of structure or building components that are to be used. This is the reason many projects result in RFIs (requests for information) being sent to the architect for clarification of various aspects of the design. Many times, the added detail provided by the architect or engineers, in response to an RFI, requires unforeseen work and materials for the contractor, which will be an added cost the owner will have to absorb.
A benefit of Design-Bid-Build projects is that after the design is complete, the owner has the opportunity to get pricing from multiple contractors, which help ensure he/she is getting a fair price. Just keep in mind that you get what you pay for, so it is not recommended to select a contractor based on price alone.

A downside to Design-Bid-Build projects is that when getting pricing after the project is designed, it sometimes happens that all of the prices received from various contractors come in over your budget. One solution when this happens, is to “value-engineer”, meaning the contractors can analyze what was designed by the architect or engineers and suggest substitutions or changes that will save money, in order to reduce the cost and get within your budget. Most times, this can be accomplished without sacrificing or changing the overall aesthetics and can be done by simply getting the architect or engineer to agree. Occasionally, the changes made to reach the budget may require submitting the plans to the permitting entity (City, County or State that issued the building permit) for approval. This could obviously cause unwanted delays and/or money.

With a design-build project, since either the contractor works for the architect or the architect works for the contractor, they work hand in hand during the design and construction phases and most of these details get worked out without the added cost to the owner. Ultimately, the choice lies in your hands. Both approaches are typical and have their benefits. Whatever you decide, Bespoke Builders will be happy to work with you on your commercial construction project from Sierra Vista to Show Low, Yuma to Flagstaff, Goodyear to Mesa or anywhere in the valley around Phoenix or throughout Arizona.


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