Tips for getting design/build projects moving forward

August 16, 2010 -  By

More than 75 real estate industry professionals convened in the office of Greenberg Glusker in Century City recently to learn about design-build project delivery and how it can be used as a tool for leasing and moving projects forward in today’s economy. Hosted by the Urban Land Institute in Los Angeles, design-build offers streamlined approach to getting projects in the ground.

Key findings from the discussion include:

Why design-build?

Clearer accountability: you have one point of contact for design and construction and less finger pointing. Panelist, Steve Soboroff of Soboroff Partners noted, “When something goes wrong in a typical bid-build scenario, the contractor blames the architect, the architect blames the contractor and the developer ends up footing the bill. With design-build, the architect and contractor are one team so finger pointing doesn’t work.”

Improved cost control: tying the design to a constructible end product during the beginning phases allows the team to identify and resolve budget issues early and make more informed decisions. “Many times, the lowest price bidder will offer less scope and a lot less quality. Make sure you’re looking at the experience of each team by discipline on projects with similar scope as well as the experience of the teams working together. Past successes will be your clearest indication of potential for meeting your goals for your project,” stated Kelly Duke, Vice President Pre-Construction Services, ValleyCrest Landscape Companies.

Faster time to market: the design and construction teams can work concurrently to expedite the time it typically takes to complete the project. Mike Rogers, design director, HKS Architects commented, “With design-build, it’s not about compressing the schedule; it’s about overlapping the work for the teams in each discipline.”

Maximized investment: because the team collaborates and shares input from the start of project visioning, as a group they are able to identify the “sacred cows” and determine throughout the development process how to best preserve them while meeting budget and schedule goals. Don Carp, Vice President at Pankow stated, “When you build consensus early, you get everyone on the bus going to the same destination.”

Before choosing design-build

Make sure the unions are on board with design-build.

Get your lender on board with design-build. Carp sited the Richmond Civic Center Revitalization as an example of a project that was able to receive public bond funding because of the speed at which the team, using design-build, delivered estimates and seismic retrofits.

As an owner, learn as much as you can about design-build and how you can set-up the contract and selection process for success.

“If expectations aren’t clear from a liability and execution standpoint from day one, you have a recipe for disaster” stated Rogers.

“The team needs to have a previously established relationship of trust,” stated Carp. “If the trust is already there, the team can focus their energy on creative and innovative solutions without second guessing others’ motivations.”

“Projects that need to be fast-tracked, require special or long lead time materials, are slated to become LEED-certified, and/or have integrated or overlapping systems are all good candidates for design-build,” stated Duke.

Successful teams

When selecting your project team, set up your selection process for determining best value as opposed to lowest price.

Get the team together during project visioning, identify your “sacred cows” and make sure everyone is on board. Rogers suggested, “Bring in as many team members as you can during the early program development conversations. It is often the people who have a small part that help most in setting the theme or heading off problems down the road such as artists, colorists and parking consultants.”

As the team works together and shares ideas the project will evolve. It is critical the team is allowed the flexibility for the evolution to take place. “At Lantana [a multi-building entertainment-media office project in Santa Monica, CA] our entire team needed to be tremendously flexible. We had to adjust to the Expo Phase Two ‘rail to the sea’ bisecting our property. The project only continued to move forward on a path to success because design-build allowed for that flexibility and the collaboration needed to find creative solutions to make it work,” stated Jim Jacobsen, Co-President and Partner, Lee and Associates, LA/West.

Owners need to establish a clear vision and goals for the project or collaborate with trusted team members to develop the vision and goals. Soboroff commented, “When I start a project, the first thing I think about is how I want the occupant to feel when they go to work, when they go to the movies, when they come home at night and how the space will enhance their lives in that interaction.”

On the topic of goal setting, Jacobsen invited his end-user prospects on tours with his project team. The tours became a forum for the team to understand precisely what the end-users expected, needed and dreamed up.

Design and build for long-term maintenance.

LM Staff

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