As an educated and licensed, professional designer, you’re probably aware of the debate over which method is better; Design Build (DB) or Design Bid Build (DBB). If you are unaware of the difference between these two methods, you may want to listen up, because we could be saving your project right now.
Design-build is a method in which there is a single contract typically with a general contractor who is hired to manage the design and construction of a particular project. In most cases, the client (the guy fronting the bill) hires a contractor for a particular project (for example, to build a fountain at his university). In the case of a fountain, the General contractor solicits bids from fountain manufacturers/designers and subcontractors and provides a generally vague set of design criteria. Lowest bidder is more often than not chosen and you end up with a far less quality end product than what you had most likely envisioned. The design-build process has a propensity for bringing out the bottom feeders in droves.
Design-bid-build is a method in which the owner hires a design team to prepare the documents and set the standard by which the project will be built. In this method, the lead designer (with the owner’s input and oversight) controls every aspect of the design. The lead designer would, in most cases, consult with and or subcontract with several professionals to make sure all of the pieces of the puzzle fit and function as intended. The sub consultants making up the design team then take your vision and, through coordination and teamwork, are tasked with tackling challenges; rooting out potential obstacles for the constructability of the project; vet the design against local codes and regulations; offering alternate more cost effective solutions; tracking cost impacts of design decisions; and overall keeping the project grounded and viable for the construction phase.
Through these coordinated efforts, design documents are produced then offered to contractors for the beginning of the bidding process. Bids are scrutinized to ensure that the contractor and his subs have adhered to the design documents and are providing equipment and materials as specified. Once the qualified Construction Manager or General Contractor is brought on board after having proven they are in compliance with the requirements of the project you sometimes have a round of suggested V.E. alternates or in some cases Value Added enhancements that may not have been thought of during the design process.
The winning contractor then orders the materials needed to build the fountain and oversees the actual construction and startup of the fountain. Both methods have essentially the same end result, you have a fountain. The big difference is in the details of the final product in regard to quality, sustainability, maintainability and design vision achievement. You are more likely to end up with what you first envisioned with Design Bid Build rather than Design-Build.
If you’re the client, it matters. The subtle difference between these two methods is in the amount of control the client retains in sticking to their vision. The design-build method is meant for clients with very little concrete vision of the finished product. To keep up with our university fountain example, you know you want to build a water feature (and you may have about 20 points of Google references you like), but you don’t really care what it looks like as long as it’s amazing.
If you are looking for more creative control in the design process and choice of materials used for your project, design bid build would be a better option. This process works great in situations where you know what you want it to look like, you may even have a bar napkin sketch of what you envision, but you just don’t know exactly how to make it a reality. This is where the design team you hired comes in handy. You can have the assurance the fountain is designed to the standard you set so that you can make a more educated decision in your choice of contractor. Fast-forward the process a bit and your construction team has produced, live and in 3D, the fountain you envisioned.
Although it’s completely up to you which process and type of additional services you choose, we recommend the design bid build method to all of our clients. If you’re building a fountain then you probably care about the details involved, and want to make sure the people you hire know what they’re doing (because it helps, trust us). It pains us as much as it pains you to hear the person hired didn’t realize building a fountain was a more intricate process than picking it up from a pool supply store. Perfection is in the details, and sometimes it’s those details that stand between your fountain running water and you running to the local dump with a pile of fiberglass and disappointed dreams.