Originally, we started doing “alternative delivery” at CDM Smith because our private sector clients were looking for a single source of responsibility on projects. We didn’t have a name or framework for it yet; we were just responding to our clients’ needs to drive efficiency into the project delivery process. The companies we were working with were focused on their business goals and weren’t interested in the traditional, sometimes cumbersome, engineering and construction routine. But thanks to a big push from private companies– and the engineering and construction industry as whole – we were soon able to innovate and revolutionize architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) delivery.
We took the time to invest in design-build in its infancy and set up a group dedicated to supporting clients with a single point of responsibility from design through construction.
Collaboration, Confidence and Communication
Over the years, alternative delivery has progressed and now federal and municipal governments are also embracing the design-build delivery method as a proven and effective way to save time and money. Any owner can be successful using design-build, as long as they set up a simple framework to communicate goals, objectives and standards. I’ve been asked the secret to design-build success. The answer is simple: trust. All infrastructure projects will have conflict; it’s the nature of the work. But if the owner and design-builder trust each other, they can navigate changes and unforeseen issues constructively and in a way that benefits the project outcome and the needs of all members of the team.
I’m very lucky to be part of an integrated team of design-builders at CDM Smith. The company took the time to invest in design-build in its infancy and set up a group dedicated to supporting clients with a single point of responsibility from design through construction. We were instrumental in helping write the early contract forms and agreements. That investment has blossomed into a business model that has been extremely successful for us. We’re one of the few true design-builders in the market. We have an integrated team of engineers and construction professionals who all have the same goal: project success. Our clients know they can trust us to deliver because our project team is mutually incentivized to deliver the whole project, not just a piece of the final outcome.
From Business Risk to Industry Standard
Today, alternative delivery is an established method, with an abundant amount of great resources available for owners interested in eliminating the transactional waste that results in the more traditional design-bid-build scenario. Thanks to great organizations, like the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and the Water Design-Build Council (WDBC), there are industry standards, handbooks and sample contracts for everyone to use. And independent studies have proven the technique is effective. In 2012, two professors from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas conducted a survey of owners and reported that, across the board, design-build resulted in greater efficiency, fewer claims and more innovation on projects.
Looking Towards a Revolution
When I think about the future, I’m excited about the potential for industry innovation. As our global population grows, we are facing real resource constraints. Using alternative delivery methods, in combination with the new suite of technologies that are now available – from BIM and VDC to mixed reality holograms – we can expedite the creation of new infrastructure. And as thought leaders and industry innovators, we have a responsibility to foster the next generation of design-build professionals.
The AEC industry has come a long way since the days when the engineers drew up the blueprints and the contractors built them; we must continue to push the boundaries to bring the most value for our clients.