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Design-Build Contracting, Why & How:

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Design-Build Contracting: Why & How, Continued



The 'traditional' delivery method used to produce construction projects of all types has been a series of non-overlapping steps as outlined below:

  1. Owner defines a need for a facility, drafts a program for that facility, and prepares a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Architectural and Engineering (A/E) services.
  2. An A/E firm is selected, a contract is negotiated, and the project is designed 100%. These services usually require the A/E to provide a construction cost estimate.
  3. Funds are authorized by the public entity based on the A/E's cost estimate.
  4. Construction bids are solicited based on the A/E's plans.
  5. If the low bidder's bid is within the approved funding, a contract is awarded. Despite "weasel clauses" normally found in public bid documents, it is expected that the low bidder will be given the job, period!
  6. If the low bid is not within the budget, the funding is either increased or the bids are rejected and the process starts over.

In any case, the A/E does not guarantee his cost estimate OR that his plans are complete and without errors or omissions. His only obligation is to prepare the plans in accordance with the standard of care that one might reasonably expect him to take in the preparation of the plans and specifications. However, thanks to the "Spearin Doctrine", the contractor is entitled to rely on the bid documents as complete and without any errors or omissions. Any costs that the contractor encounters as a result of errors or omissions in the plans, entitles him to a change order increasing his contract amount. The Owner is at risk for these claims and must budget for them up front. Total claim amounts up to 10% aren't unusual.

In summary, the "traditional" approach has the following weaknesses:

  • No guarantee of completion date
  • No guarantee of final cost until its done
  • Takes too long
  • No control over who will be the contractor
  • No opportunity to involve the contractor in the design or budgeting process
  • Commonly ends in litigation or arbitration.



©2000 John A. Jones, PE, CBO


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