With all of the new technology and processes in the construction industry, the basic structure of how a project is designed and delivered is constantly changing. Below is an interesting diagram depicting the traditional model of project design and delivery and where the model is trending towards in the future.
As we can see, the ability to impact the cost and functional capabilities of a building has an inverse relationship with the cost of design changes. In more plain English, design change is cheap is you don’t have a building, change orders are expensive during construction, and remodels/retrofits are really expensive once the building is complete.
With the traditional design process of design, bid, and build, we can see that the most effort is spent where the ability to impact the cost and functionality of the project is equal to the cost of the design changes. What does this mean? Well, it means that things are just fine. The most effort is being spent when at a time where it’s not necessarily expensive to make changes, but it’s also not the cheapest. The problems see here is that there hasn’t been enough time and effort dedicated to early design of the building so during the construction documents phase, a decent amount of design re-work must happen. This of course has other consequences that could lead into the construction administration phase of the building which in turn results in costly change orders.
But let’s take a look at the preferred design process. The majority of effort spent during design is spent in early design, allowing for changes to be made at a time of lesser cost. This model cannot exist in design, bid and build and can only come from more progressive models like design-build, or better yet, integrated project delivery (IPD.) In order to effectively achieve a descent design in the early design stages to minimize the level of effort from construction documents on, a greater level of commitment is required by not only the architect, but also by all of the owner, consultants, and contractors.
With an integrated, collaborative design up front, the total cost of the project shall be reduced by minimizing late changes which become costly due to the amount of re-work that will be involved. In order to properly achieve this, a cultural shift must be understood by all. It is extremely important to gather the imput of the subcontractor’s who shall be installing the various products while the engineers are designing the building. By combining polar opposites, those who know how to design/draw yet can’t build with those who lack vision but can build anything and everything, a strong design is achieved early and a fast, reliable building is built during construction.
Other than the design team and contractors, the owner must fully understand this concept as well. Pre-construction costs must be raised in order to follow this model. This may be hard to communicate up the food chain as the traditional model indicates that higher pre-construciton costs result in higher construction costs. With a more collaborative approach, however, the opposite shall become true. The total cost of the building shall be less expensive and the building’s level of functionality shall be increased. This is only possible since the necessary design changes to improve the building and minimize cost are allowed to take place at a time where it is beneficial to every party.