file under: Industrial, Chemicals, Design-Build, Food and Beverage, Metals and Mining, Oil and Gas, Power

Relationships Key to Design-Build Projects for Industry


Industry has long used the engineering procurement construction (EPC) method to build large plants that require only a modest degree of customization. To implement the kinds of unique solutions called for when developing environmental facilities and treatment systems, improving proprietary processes, and implementing other one-of-a-kind projects, the design-build approach—provided through a consulting, engineering, and construction firm with the ability to foster and maintain a solid working relationship with the client—is often the best delivery method.

When developing environmental facilities and treatment systems, improving proprietary processes, and implementing one-of-a-kind projects, the design-build approach provides substantial advantages in the delivery of industrial facilities. 

Industrial facility managers have always appreciated the benefits of design-build, such as the:

  • Simplicity of contracting with and managing just one provider.
  • Enhanced quality through in-house engineering and craft resources.
  • Streamlined schedules by minimizing design specifics and overlapping some design and construction tasks.
  • Cost savings through improved ability to design creatively, accommodate changes, purchase equipment up front, and use other strategies.

But design-build carries its own considerations as well. Changes are inherent in the design process, for instance, and in traditional delivery, the engineer adds a great many specifics to the design to minimize change orders later. Under design-build, however, the design-builder develops a price and schedule before having determined all possible issues. This can be a challenge unless the design-builder and client have a good up-front relationship and both realize that changes in scope, schedule, and cost may arise. Design-build projects require ongoing flexibility.

In the typical hard-bid construction job, or even an EPC situation, the relationship between the client and the constructor focuses mostly on the financials and schedule. In design-build, the relationship must instead address the needs of the whole project, encompassing the close partnership the engineer usually has with the client, as well as the contractor's interactions. Industrial contractors generally are not as concerned about relationships because their goal is simply to deliver a facility according to the set plans, schedule, and cost. A true design-builder, however, must establish trust and a spirit of collaboration, while creating value, quality, and reliability for the client.

Design-build provides substantial advantages in the delivery of industrial facilities. Making the most of these benefits requires a design-builder who can draw on its culture as a professional services firm to forge a sound working relationship with the client and deliver a successful project.

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