After Lake High School in Wood County, Ohio, was demolished by a tornado in June 2010, rebuilding it was a top priority. Officials sprang into action right away.
The new school was constructed in half the usual time and for less money under a new method that just became legal two years ago in Ohio, called the design-build method.
Lake High School became, unofficially, Ohio’s first construction reform project: a prototype for project delivery methods issued by the state architect’s office and outlined in Ohio Construction Reform House Bill 153.
In 2011, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich signed a bill that included the first changes in the state’s method of performing public construction in more than 134 years. The Ohio Construction Reform Law substantially changed how public improvement projects are completed by allowing for the use of alternative construction delivery methods, including design-build.
The design-build method is legal in 32 states, according to the Design-Build Institute of America. Each state can interpret design-build authority individually. Other Midwestern states with design-build legislation include Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.
What is design-build?
According to the DBIA, this method of project delivery involves one entity, the design-build team, working under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services: one entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion. Design-build is an alternative to design-bidbuild, an approach in which design and construction are split: separate entities, separate contracts, separate work. Design-build is also known as “design-construct” and “single-source responsibility.” Across the country and around the world, design-build successfully delivers office buildings, schools, stadiums, transportation and water infrastructure projects.
Design-build, design-bid-build and construction management are the three project delivery systems most commonly employed in North America. During the past 15 years, use of design-build has greatly accelerated in the United States, making this delivery method one of the most significant trends in design and construction today. A 2011 study analyzing the design-build project delivery method in the U.S. shows it was used on more than 40 percent of non-residential construction projects in 2010, a 10 percent increase since 2005.
Rudolph/Libbe, a design-build contractor, and an architect and engineer worked directly and closely with school officials on the Wood County project, reviewing it to eliminate issues while phases of work were still being budgeted.
Lake High School’s budget was limited to the insurance settlement an amount school officials could not exceed. Rudolph/Libbe used a guaranteed maximum price contractual approach so the owner could also take advantage of any cost savings, either adding more scope or using the funds for other purposes.
The Ohio-based company also constructed several municipal buildings. Lake Township Multi-Purpose Building was constructed on the existing slab of the old building, which was lost in the June 5, 2010, tornado. The 14,150 square-foot, single-story, brick veneer building houses the township offices, police department and garage, emergency medical technician department and municipal hall. The project was completed in mid-May 2011. The owner used design-build to achieve its schedule and budget goals.
Bryan, Ohio, used the design-build method to simplify and streamline a complicated, 2.125 MW solar array project, making it possible to meet a very aggressive schedule due to tight time frames for obtaining incentives. Other public design-build edifices have been constructed in Maumee and Perrysburg, Ohio.
Pros and cons
The potential advantage to the design-build model is anticipated cost savings from accelerated delivery schedules due to improved coordination between the architect and the builder, during and after the pre-design and actual design phases.
There are also time- and cost-saving benefits in the design-build delivery method, according to Jeff Schaller, vice president of preconstruction services for Rudolph/Libbe Inc.
“Design-build streamlines and simplifies the construction process,” said Schaller. “With the design-build delivery method, the customer knows the project cost and all components upfront, as well as the construction team that will perform the work. The owner has a single contact for design and construction, with no need to manage individual contractors and architects. This provides one point of accountability for all aspects of the project.”
He noted design-build contractor and architects work together from the earliest phases of the project, planning value and efficiency into their work.
“The design-build approach is the only delivery method that provides customers with a design and guaranteed maximum price from the beginning. There are fewer changes during construction because the project is well-planned early in the process.”
He noted projects are completed more quickly because construction can proceed as design progresses. These projects are referred to as “fast-track” in the construction industry.
Also, accurate budgets are established early in the design process, preventing cost overruns during design, Schaller noted.
Some critics, however, say the method is poorly adapted to projects that require complex and elaborated design for aesthetic or technical purposes.
According to a 2012 report by the California State Assembly Committee on Transportation, a possible drawback of design-build is its potential impact on smaller design and construction firms that lack expertise or capabilities in one of the design-build components, and firms limited in their ability to partner with other firms or join consortia to obtain such expertise and compete for the broader and larger design-build contracts.