Although there is the romantic notion of Design/Build bringing “back” the glory of the Master Builder, this is not the reality. Most architectural graduates are not prepared to actively operate in a Design/Build practice due to no formal Design/Buil

In 1965, the United Kingdom’s Emmerson Report remarked, “In no other important industry is the responsibility for design so far removed from the responsibility of production.” Little has changed in our profession since this UK report in 1965. Today, economic realities have awakened a new awareness that Design/Build can help bridge this project process gap. Paul Dougherty’s thoughtful perspective takes an interesting approach to the future of Design/Build.

Although there is the romantic notion of Design/Build bringing “back” the glory of the Master Builder, this is not the reality. Most architectural graduates are not prepared to actively operate in a Design/Build practice due to no formal Design/Build curriculum. It is the responsibility of the marketplace to provide this formal training period, which leads to different descriptions and definitions of exactly what Design/Build is and what it is not.

In its simplest definition, Design/Build is the procurement of a building construction project that enable clients to employ one firm that takes single-source responsibility for delivering the required building and associated services in accordance with defined standards and conditions. The core mission of a business, profession or industry will become obsolete from time to time. Unless you are watching for “new developments”, an industry will find itself mired in the past. Without systemic and purposeful abandonment of an old and outdated business model, the industry will be overtaken by events. This out-of-the-box thinking is not a luxury, but a necessity. In our industry, anything that improves productivity, efficiency, effectiveness or the value of the deliverable to customers, will separate you from the competition. Design/Build is our profession’s “new development”.

Being that recent reports and surveys have indicated that Design/Build project procurement will be reaching, and have reached, 40-45% of all projects, it is imperative that the project teams, and in particular, design professionals, provide the education, tools and methods of practice to meet these new economic challenges.

It is our vision that within this generation of architects, the definition of a traditional architectural practice will be a Design/Build practice and the term Design/Build will cease to exist, rather it will just be “doing business”. Design/Build is not some economic concept meant to erode the value of architecture, rather it is an economic inevitability. The profession’s challenge is not how do we stop the Design/Build trend, but rather how can we benefit the most (or be injured the least) by the inevitability of this trend.
It is the profession’s challenge to ensure that the design is kept as the lead in Design/Build and keep Design/Build from becoming Build/Design. An additional challenge is to keep Design/Build within our industry.

During a presentation to the Business Roundtable’s meeting of Fortune 500 corporations in early March1998, a conversation took place with an international paper manufacturer who is purchasing $470 Million worth of manufacturing equipment. The conversation turned to Design/Build as a way of delivering their building that will house this new equipment so their product can get to market faster than their competition. Not only were they thinking of Design/Build as their preferred method of project delivery, but they were contemplating having their equipment manufacturer design, specify and build the buildings around the equipment, doing away with the traditional roles of architect, contractor and owner. This puts the equipment manufacturer in the lead role of Design/Build, single-source responsibility. This represents the very epitome of a different industry providing the services of a traditional industry that is not providing the value of their services to its clients.

This value migration is affecting our industry as customers make de facto choices about the business designs and methods that best meet their needs. Complacency is not an option in this regard. Architects need to be the de facto choice as design-led Design/Build or be reduced to the role of a subcontractor of design services who are necessitated by regulatory procedures. The lack of understanding by the paper manufacturer to a design build professional’s value is of serious concern. We need to be inside the boardrooms and the minds of our clients to demonstrate the value of design and how when led by design, a client finds their Design/Build project to be more valuable to their bottom lines.

There are two immediate action items design build teams can do to start taking control of their own destiny:

1. They must perform the service of construction information management. Knowledge-based Design/Build is a reality.
2. In regards to a design build teams positioning to the challenges of other industries, they must get involved with organizations such as BOMA, NACORE, IDRC, IFMA and The Business Roundtable to promote the value of design in Design/Build to the bottom line and create a “place at the table”.

In this Knowledge Age in which we are living and working, organizational competence is no longer based not on past principals of ownership, stability and control, but rather on the emerging principals of interdependence, flexibility and partnership. This epitomizes the process of Design/Build.

Our first suggested action item challenges design build teams to broaden their definition of what services they provide. In the minds of the industry, the realities of constructing a building with brick and mortar have far outweighed the benefits of bits and bytes. This mind set is slowly being replaced with the reality that information systems, when properly implemented, used and maintained, can be an enormous competitive advantage in the marketplace. The convergence of Design/Build and Information Technology is providing the catalyst for the knowledge-based Design/Builder. The ability to manage, control and disseminate digital project information in a cost-effective and easy to use manner will separate one design build team from another.

Design/Build is an economically-led embodiment of a redefinition of the project team. By embracing this change and it can take your business to heights it has never known before. Shun this reality, and your business will be reduced to a commodity. In the same respect, if too much of a focus is on the “power” struggle of design-led vs. contractor-led Design/Build within our industry, other industries will be supplying our client’s needs of building procurement.

It’s an invigorating challenge. It is the fight of your career.