Benefits of a Proven Self-Performing Design-Builder

by | Dec 6, 2021

A critical element of success for progressive design-build projects is cost savings. It is the design-builder’s job to make every penny of the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) count.

A self-performing design-builder provides cost and schedule certainty during the design-to-budget process. These advantages also extend to construction activities, where the design-builder provides the client with the ability to cost-effectively self-perform much of the construction work, controlling the critical path and managing project risk. Here are some specific benefits to self-performance in the design-build delivery method.

Cost Competitiveness and Expertise. Accurate estimating is the foundation of an effective GMP. To generate these precise estimates, self-performing design-builders utilize data-driven estimating systems based on experience in the water and wastewater construction industry. The heart of these systems relies on a dynamic database of the actual labor, material, and equipment costs required to perform each work task. This comprehensive data set is only made possible by a high level of self-performance. This cost-estimating feedback cycle will result in the highest degree of accuracy for the design-builder’s estimates – estimates which form the basis of the GMP.

Self-performing design-builders who engage in water and wastewater construction on a regular basis have developed highly effective means to complete the work safely and efficiently. These design-builders have boots-on-the-ground experience that influence decision-making when it comes to materials, cost-effective problem solving, and scheduling. Overall, this expertise shapes more accurate estimates that lead to a more accurate GMP.

Control Over Critical Work. By self-performing those packages for which timely completion is critical to the overall project schedule, the design-builder gives a team the highest level of control over the project. Maintaining control over packages that require timely completion provides the client with a more precise schedule that can accurately predict activity duration and resource requirements.

Experienced design-builders optimize control over process-critical work. No one knows the procurement, installation, and commissioning of water and wastewater infrastructure better than an experienced self-performing design-builder. Process-critical work such as installation of filters, aeration equipment, chemical systems, and clarification systems that depend on successful implementation are often self-performed in a collaboratively delivered project. This also maximizes control over the more complex and technically challenging aspects of the job. A self-performer also understands the importance of maintaining flow and continual treatment. Work packages involving activities related to maintenance of plant operations, though typically representing a relatively low percentage of project cost, carry a disproportionately high importance to maintaining flow and treatment. An experienced design-builder may consider self-performing these operations as they are critically important activities to the overall project success.

Risk Mitigation. Should any construction subcontractor struggle to meet its obligations for any reason, a self-performing design-builder has its own resources that can be quickly deployed to the project to augment the subcontractor’s resources as necessary to avoid any impact to the project cost and schedule.

Value Engineering Ideas. Self-performing design-builders can produce high-impact value engineering ideas. Using proven experience in the water and wastewater construction industry, construction engineers and estimators have innate knowledge regarding the costs of virtually all plant structures, processes, and services. This knowledge, along with the corresponding cost estimating systems, allows the development of value engineering ideas that are both substantial and viable.

It should be noted that there are state-mandated variances as to how much design-builders may be allowed to self-perform, as well as the possibility of the self-performer bidding against other entities for acquisition of self-performed work. Some owners and practitioners feel that it is a best practice to bid all work packages, including those being self-performed by their design-builder, in order to maintain the highest level of transparency and assess the best value throughout the bidding process.

Overall, utilizing a self-performing design-builder can offer direct benefits to cost, schedule, and quality on complex water infrastructure projects.

Tommy Brennan, Business Development Manager, Ulliman Schutte

Tommy Brennan, Business Development Manager for Ulliman Schutte, has over 25 years of experience in the water/wastewater industry in roles including project management, estimating, safety, preconstruction services, business development, community outreach, and client satisfaction. He holds a BS in construction engineering and management from Purdue University. Tommy is dedicated to the development and growth of collaborative delivery and he currently represents Ulliman Schutte on the Water Design-Build Council Advisor Group while also serving as the President of DBIA’s Ohio Valley Region.