A Simple Guide to the Pro’s & Con’s of Design and Build Approach

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Design and build is one of two primary ways to take a concept through to practical completion (the other being Design-Bid-Build, which we will cover later in this article).

Design and build (D&B) is popular due in large part to its upfront fixed cost, efficiency and streamlined project delivery, and creating a situation where there is only one point of contact for the Client to deal with throughout the project lifecycle. D&B can help to facilitate rapid construction times by integrating design and construction teams from the outset since the approach expedites decision-making as both the designer and builder are the same party. This may help to reduce potential delays, making it well-suited to meeting the demand for timely project delivery.

There are however considerations and downsides to going down the D&B route, and some of these negatives and pitfalls are, paradoxically, often portrayed as positive reasons to choose D&B.

Limited Design Exploration

In a D&B approach, the focus is often on quickly moving to construction, limiting the depth and appetite for design development, iteration and exploration. This can result in missed opportunities for innovative and unique design solutions.

Reduced Design Independence

When opting for a D&B route, the design team is typically tied to the construction contractor, which can compromise their independence and objectivity. This may lead to designs that prioritise construction ease over client's best interests.

Lack Of Competitive Bidding

Going through a D&B route does not allow for competitive bidding among contractors based upon the same design, which reduces the opportunity for objective, comparative negotiation and cost savings. In short, D&B may limit competition, reducing the client's ability to secure the best construction value.

Less Accountability

With D&B there is a lack of separation of responsibilities between the design and the construction phases, making it difficult to assign accountability for any issues that may arise making it the more challenging approach when it comes to determining responsibility when problems do (inevitably) occur.

How About the ‘Design-Bid-Build’ approach?

At Studio X, we have the capabilities to carry out projects either via ‘Design and Build’ or ‘Design-Bid-Build’. However, we find that for most clients, particularly those who have a focus on design - to enhance a user or customer experience, or to improve the performance of their business, the Design-Bid-Build (DBB) route often tends to result in a more cost-effective outcome compared to the "design and build" route in many cases.

This is because DBB typically involves a competitive bidding process among construction contractors who are independent of the design firm, encouraging them to submit their most competitive pricing proposals. This competition can drive down construction costs, ultimately benefiting the client.

Furthermore, for projects that require creative thinking, iteration, a close client:designer collaborative partnership and an eye on brand experience, there is no question that DBB is the most appropriate route to take.

In a speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Joint BOA-ACES Conference in 2017, he said:

“The demands of the built environment sector are becoming increasingly wide-ranging and complex. What we used to know as our traditional roles and responsibilities have evolved. We cannot just ‘design and build’ a building; we also have to think about how the building can be built in a more productive way, how it can be better maintained, or how it can help reduce our carbon footprint.”

However, it's important to note that the cost-effectiveness of either route depends on various factors, including project complexity, the expertise of the involved parties, and local market conditions. Therefore, the choice between these approaches should be made on a case-by-case basis, considering all relevant factors to achieve the best cost-effective outcome for a specific project and this is something that we often discuss with our clients to help guide them when necessary.

Here are some benefits of the Design-Bid-Build approach:-

Customer Flow Optimisation

Having the time to foster collaboration with the client to develop a layout that optimises customer flow within a retail store or shopping mall interior. This includes strategically positioning high-margin and hero items, creating clear pathways to develop intuitive ‘sign-less’ wayfinding, and considering fitting room, try-before-you-buy and checkout zones to enhance the shopping experience.

Employee Productivity

Interview staff to understand pain points and ways to improve the working environment and to emphasise workspace wellbeing, ergonomics and comfort in workplace design. Incorporate design workshops into the design program to debate the use and cost:benefit of adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs and breakout spaces. And work with a specialist lighting consultant to optimise natural lighting and enhance employee well-being and boost productivity. A comfortable and healthy work environment can lead to higher job satisfaction and improved business outcomes but this can only be achieved by working alongside the client and their staff to understand what needs to be improved and why, whilst presenting thought provoking ideas to them.

Branding And Storytelling

Being able to discuss with the client ways to encourage the use of design elements that convey the brand's identity and story throughout the space. This not only reinforces brand recognition but also creates an emotional connection with customers or employees, fostering loyalty, recognition and positive business outcomes.

Energy Efficiency And Sustainability

Being independent of any one supply chain to be able to advocate for sustainable design elements such as energy-efficient lighting, centralised air purification HVAC systems, and the use of eco-friendly materials. We can also look at ways to lower operational costs through reduced energy consumption.

Iterate And Alter The Design

One of the beauties of the design bid build route is that the client has the ability to alter and change the design as they go through the process and as they learn more about what is achievable. The symbiotic relationship that is available to the client and to the Designer in a DBB route, enables the transferring of information in a way that is not possible with D&B. For instance, the client will be able to explain the pain points of their business and suggest areas for improvement. The Designer will then propose ideas that solve this problem in a range of ways, many of which the client may not have considered. This back-and-forth information exchange naturally leads to higher-quality design decision-making, and a considerably higher likelihood that the final outcome actually improves the clients business performance and meets their objectives.

If you would like to learn more about either approach or have a project in mind that you would like to discuss then please reach out to us here for a 30 min discovery call with one of our design leaders.

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