Simple Process . . . Dramatic Results

If someone told you that on your next building project that you could a) design your facility easily b) get the best price and quality balance possible c) the price would not go above a guaranteed amount after construction started d) misunderstandings and disagreements would be virtually eliminated by the parties involved and e) you would be in your new facility on your desired date or even earlier, what would you say? Impossible? This scenario is not only a possibility, but it’s being done every day at Marsh/Bell Construction through our Design-BUILD process.

“We believe that the Design-BUILD method we chose allowed us to construct a first class facility that truly meets our everyday needs. Marsh/Bell not only met, but also exceeded our expectations. We truly appreciate your ability to complete our project on time and accommodate our changes during construction. Also, our corporate staff has been extremely pleased with the investment that they have made in our local division. Thank you for your hard work and the quality work that Marsh/Bell did for us. Best wishes to you and your company in the future.”

Shane Walker, General Manager – Fennell Container Co., Inc.

Before We Discuss Design-BUILD, Let’s First Look at the Traditional Bid Process

In this common method, an owner contracts directly with an architect to design the project with no input or suggestions from contractors who would be using the design documents to obtain pricing and construct the facility. Once the design documents are completed, then general contractors bidding the project obtain prices from the cheapest subcontractors so they will have the lowest bid price to win the work. Please note that this low bid price is only the minimum amount that the owner will pay, not the maximum. This low bid may also be over the owner’s budget, therefore the owner may have to pay the architect again for redesign, and the bid process is repeated hoping to receive a bid price within the budget.

Once construction starts, gray areas on the drawings can surface or things that are needed but were not included on the drawings have to be addressed. This increases the chances for adversarial relationships between all parties involved to correct the situations. In addition to the owner being involved in the resolution of the conflict, the owner’s price starts to rise as the change orders start to add up to correct these issues/items. There is no way to know what the final price of the project will be, which could be unfortunate if additional financial resources are not available.

This entire process selects the contractor based on one premise, the initial price of the low bid. It ignores all of the other qualities the contractors possess. Most people do not choose other important things in life, such as a husband or wife, based on just one factor. They consider all the qualities of the person they are choosing to build their life with. Do the same with the contractor you are selecting to build your next project.

Design-BUILD Eliminates the Pitfalls of the Traditional Bid Process

The way to get a cost effective project and minimize your risk is to involve a quality general contractor during planning and design. The window of opportunity for achieving best value on a construction project is before construction starts. We are a great resource even before design begins. The key is to involve Marsh/Bell as early as possible, even before the land is purchased. We are a tremendous resource during the “due diligence” period. Our client needs to know site development and building costs, in addition to land costs, for the total project cost. We mobilize the professionals to answer many of the questions that must be addressed and develop site and building budgets. With that information, our client is able to make a confident land purchase decision. We are trusted advisors to many of the Upstate’s most successful developers for this reason.

The contractor is the expert on how things can be assembled in the field and an expert on the current market conditions for labor and material prices. Having a contractor assist with design decisions and evaluate the cost impact those decisions is invaluable. The impact of those decisions may not just be cost related, but may affect things such as quality, constructability, future maintenance issues, duration of project schedule, or project safety.

We are currently building two traditional bid projects in which we were the lowest bidder but the price was significantly higher than the client’s approved budgets. We were asked in each case to determine how to build their projects at a cost closer to their budget and were successful. In one case, the bid was 50% higher than the budget and we were able to reduce the overage by half. In another case we priced a design provided to us and the project would have been $3 million over the client’s budget and were able to reduce that overage by two thirds, a 22% reduction in the original design’s project cost. The time for this creative work and value engineering is before the plans are complete, not after a bid process. In many cases, even if a bid project meets the owner’s budget, the Design-BUILD process could have saved the owner money or allowed him to use the savings for enhancements.

At Marsh/Bell Construction, we are honored by the trust that our Design-BUILD clients place in us and enjoy the responsibility given us for the entire project. After evaluating the client’s specific needs, we assemble a “dream team” of design and engineering professionals to assist us in the project design. No stone is left unturned in our pursuit of the best design from all considerations. Please review what we consider to be the primary advantages of Marsh/Bell’s Design-BUILD process.

  1. With the Design-BUILDER’s involvement in site selection analysis, the client is confident the site will work for the type project desired and knows how much will need to be invested to prepare the site for construction, which can be significant in relation to the raw land cost.
  2. A guaranteed maximum price for the total project that is within the client’s budget is established early in the process. The client will pay this amount or less.
  3. Risk for the client is virtually eliminated since there is a single source of accountability for the design, quality, schedule, and budget. There are no change orders for the client after construction begins unless the original scope of work is changed or concealed conditions are discovered. The goal of the project is “no surprises”.
  4. The project is people and relationship driven versus document driven. Since the team worked closely to design it, they have common objectives and goals to make the project a success. You get the best ideas form the team due to the cooperative spirit.
  5. Since the finger pointing is eliminated and chances for misunderstandings are reduced, legal fees are minimized.
  6. Design fees are usually less since the team is assisting the architect with design. In addition, the construction documents usually take less time to prepare than if it was bid. The fees are determined and fixed from the beginning.
  7. Engineering fees may be reduced on specific types of projects if subcontractors with on-staff engineers design certain systems.
  8. Quality is maximized since subcontractors are pre-qualified, are known to do excellent work, and enjoy the collaborative, team approach.
  9. Time can be saved since construction can begin as the design is being completed. Realistic completion dates are established by the contractor doing the work.

We recently completed Toyota of Greenville’s new dealership on Laurens Rd. in Greenville, which was a renovation of the former Rhodes Furniture building. Through the Design-BUILD process, four to five months were saved in total project time because we were performing demolition and certain portions of construction as the design was being completed.

Many federal and state agencies are embracing the Design-BUILD project delivery method to provide the best value for taxpayers, with the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston being a good example. The Design-Build Institute of America forecasts that by 2006, the number of Design-BUILD projects will surpass the number of traditional bid projects.

The DBIA has been a leader in the education of Design-BUILD professionals. Dwayne Bell, President of Marsh/Bell, is currently working on his DBIA designation, which will certify him as one of the leading Design-BUILDERS in the country. One interesting note to mention is the principals of Marsh/Bell have had a strong orientation toward design since they began. Dwayne and his partner, Mike Vargo, designed and drafted many of the buildings they built in the early years of the company.

An objective study of 351 building projects, sponsored and developed by the Construction Industry Institute and Penn State University has quantified specific Design-BUILD benefits. The findings of that study concluded that, as compared to bid projects, Design-BUILD:

* Unit costs dropped at least 6.1 percent;
* Construction speed increased by at least 12 percent;
* Overall project delivery speed increased to at least 33.5 percent faster;
* Cost growth dropped at least 5.2 percent;
* Schedule growth dropped at least 11.4 percent; and,
* Overall quality of the final project was equal to or better than traditional methods

We have outlined the benefits of our Design-BUILD delivery method, and if you are interested in exactly how Marsh/Bell’s process would work with you, please contact us for a meeting to discuss your particular needs.