Progressive Design-Build Starts With Trust

by | Jan 2, 2024

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to work with someone you did not trust? It’s not a pleasant experience, is it? Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, and it’s no different when it comes to progressive design-build (PDB) projects. Trust enables the design-build team to work together effectively and efficiently, which can streamline the project delivery process while reducing project delivery time, cost, and risk to all stakeholders. In this post, we will explore why trust is so important and how it can make or break a construction project.

Progressive Design-Build and Trust Go Hand in Hand

Trust is the bond that holds a progressive design-build project together and the project culture has to resemble that of a family.  You can laugh, cry, disagree, have different points of views, and even know when to stop talking and take a break, but at the end of the day a family instills trust in each other to do the right thing. You must lead with empathy and have no ego. Similarly, without trust, the owner, designer, and builder cannot work together effectively, and the project is likely to suffer. Here are six areas where trust is important in this field:

  • Collaboration: Progressive design-build projects require a high degree of collaboration among the owner, designer, and builder. Each party must be willing to have purposeful alignment of shared values and goals.  Without trust, collaboration is difficult, if not impossible.
  • Innovation: One of the key benefits of PDB projects is the ability to innovate. The designer and builder can work together to develop plans that are more efficient, cost effective, and better aligned with the owner’s goals. However, this requires a high degree of trust by the owner to believe it is receiving the best value.
  • Risk: There is a higher degree of risk in design-build than in traditional design-bid-build projects. The owner must trust that the designer and builder will document and work together to manage these risks effectively and deliver the project on time and on budget.
  • Quality: For the project to be more cost effective the owner must trust the engineer to design and the builder to construct the project in accordance with the required permitting and basis of design report. If the owner desires an owner representative to oversee the design and building, it will add cost to the project and increase budget. Without trust on quality control, the design and building phases will be slowed resulting in cost and time increases.
  • Budget: Progressive design-build projects require an open-book approach to developing a budget and it should be understood and used as the basis of budget development. This will ensure the project team and the owner understand the deliverables that are included in the budget as the design advances from 60% to 100%. The engineering and building teams have an obligation to provide a fully functioning and permit-compliant facility. However, it does not mean that the owner can continue to change the final design or add scope. Without trust and understanding of the budget, there will be continued conflict with cost overruns.
  • Scope: Progressive design-build projects define the scope at 60% design which allows the builder to provide a guaranteed maximum price (GMP). Once the GMP is set, then the engineer has the obligation to continue the design to 100%. This allows the design-builder to start procurement and construction of early work phases. It is important that the owner has fully engaged and documented its required scope items prior to the GMP. Many times, the owner will have preferred standard details that were not incorporated into the design because they were not known until after the 60% design. From 60% to 100% design is when many details for the project are finalized and added to the scope documents. If the owner fails to convey specific design requirements to the engineering team in a timely manner, they may not get added. The engineering team must trust the owner has provided them with all the necessary required design parameters in the basis of design report.

Trusting the Progressive Design-Build Process
In conclusion, trust is the most important part of a successful progressive design-build project. Without trust, collaboration, innovation, risk management, scope, budget, and quality control are all but impossible. If you are involved in a PDB project, take the time to build trust with your team. Be open and honest in your communication, expectations, and required standards; share your expertise; and work together to develop the best possible solution for the project. Put the project before your ego. If you do not, the project is likely to suffer and you may not achieve the results you are looking for. If you cannot start the project with trust, you may not want to use progressive design-build as your delivery method.