On many levels, how architect-designed buildings are developed and delivered has not changed much over the past 200 years: owners initiate projects; architects, engineers, and related professionals create designs, determine appropriate building systems, and document what to construct; and contractors and tradespersons build. Each phase of the design and construction process entails reviews and revisions by various participants until owners accept the delivered buildings. What has changed are the demarcation points between phases and the various design and construction disciplines. Delivery methods have been blending to the point that the ability to define projects by a particular method is no longer a simple process. The more we look at today’s delivery options, the more the lines blur together. While Design-Bid-Build is still the delivery method most frequently used, many owners now favor methods that facilitate communication earlier in the process.
Owners are motivated by the fundamental principles of quality, cost and schedule, while minimizing their risk. Now, owners seem to be seeking the additional principle of avoiding conflicts. Do the alternative methods work, or are conflicts still there?
Many owners are steadfast in their commitment to one method or another; others are not that convinced. Yet all agree that the ability to avoid conflicts rests in the ability to put together a collaborative and motivated design and construction team. As the newer methods mature, the distinction between them is blurred, and the old “master builder” approach starts to take new shape.
The fundamental reasons for considering which project delivery option to use are still there: changes in the building market, the need for specialized services, accountability, risk management, and the complexity of buildings themselves. However, the method chosen, or variation thereof, seems to be less directed by logic than by a desire to try an approach that avoids the pitfalls experienced with other delivery methods.
Things are changing at an ever-increasing rate. It’s an exciting time and many believe the changes are for the better. Keeping up with the changes and knowing which method is best for your project requires an understanding of the subtle differences between methods and how to avoid repeating mistakes.