When Spokane architect Steve Piscitello embarked on his first design-build project last yeara $5.1 million student-housing building at North Idaho Collegehe was unsure how well it would work to have a contractor involved in the design process.
In his previous projects, he had called the shots when it came to design, but in retrospect, things went very well in the North Idaho project, says Piscitello, a principal with 3E Design Group PS.
3E Design worked with Leone & Keeble Inc., a Spokane construction company, on the 200-bed facility, and Piscitello says that Leone & Keebles ideas on the designhoned by its experience with assisted-living center projectsmade the student-housing building better.
Now, he says, Other partners and I have talked about design-build, and weve come to the conclusion that the future is going to be pointing in that direction. Theres a lot of opportunity with that.
Piscitello isnt alone. The design-build process is being used more frequently in the Inland Northwest, and more developersboth private and publicwill embrace the process as it becomes more commonplace, professionals say.
In design-build, which also is called one-source contracting, a prospective building owner contracts with a teamtypically an architectural firm and a construction companyto work together to both design and build a desired project. That differs from the conventional process, in which an owner hires an architect to design a building, then awards a construction contract to the company that submits the lowest bid.
Design-build advocates say that process encourages collaboration. They say it also can take less time than the conventional design-bid-build process leading to cost savings for a developer.
A number of upcoming projects here will use the design-build method.
Gonzaga University has selected a team of Garco Construction Inc., ALSC Architects PS, both of Spokane, and Ellerbe Becket Inc., of San Francisco, to design and build a planned $23 million sports arena. Construction of that project is contingent on a fund-raising effort, which is under way.
The Colville Confederated Tribes plans to select a design-build team early next year to build an $18 million boarding-school complex near Omak, Wash.
ALSC and Lydig Construction Inc., of Spokane, have landed a $16.6 million design-build contract for a new convention center in Kennewick, Wash. Construction likely will begin next spring.
Childrens Home Society of Washington chose Walker Construction Inc. and Tan Moore Architects PC, both of Spokane, as the design-build team for its $1.5 million Family Resource Center, at Mirabeau Point, in the Spokane Valley. Work there could start in March.
In response to the emergence of design-build, Washington State University at Spokane is offering a design-build emphasis for students who are pursuing a masters degree in architecture. Two students have graduated from the 2-year-old program so far, and 14 students currently are enrolled in the program.
Darlene Septelka, an associate professor in architecture at WSU-Spokane who oversees that program, says more prospective building owners likely will chose the design-build process as awareness increases.
Owners are looking for more of a collaborative approach, she says.
Because architects and contractors work under the same contract, the two parties often can foresee potential problems and can address them before breaking ground, Septelka says.
In a conventional design-bid-build process, she says, the relationship between the architect and the contractor sometimes becomes adversarial. Architects and contractors have separate contracts, and might blame one another if a project begins to go over budget, falls behind schedule, or has other problems, she says. That finger pointing can lead to snags, delays, and even litigation, she says.
Piscitello says design-build collaborations also can shorten design time and the construction schedule. In addition, he says, the design and construction fee for a design-build team sometimes is lower than what an architect and contractor would command separately.
Design-build, however, has a bad reputation with some architects, says Sue Lani Madsen, president of the Spokane chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The process often is seen as a way to keep that rogue architect under control, which isnt appreciated by architects, Madsen says.
Madsen, a principal at Madsen, Mitchell, Evenson, & Conrad PLLC, says she has had a range of experiences with design-build projects. In one instance, she says, a project owner hired a design-build team in which she was involved in an effort to avoid project creep, or increases in project cost and scope during design and construction. The team delivered precisely what the owner asked for. The owner acknowledged that all criteria were met, but later expressed disappointment in the project and conceded that project creep might be necessary at times.
For prospective building owners, Madsen says, The critical part is that youve defined your expectations appropriately. And dont write yourself out of the design process.
Septelka says that writing the requests for qualifications and requests for proposals for a design-build project are crucial steps to avoid potential problems. An owner might want to enlist help from a construction manager or an architect when drafting such documents.
Often, problems occur in design-build projects because an owners guidelines arent clear. In those instances, Septelka says, finger pointing can occur. The difference, she says, is that the architect and contractor are pointing fingers at the owner, rather than at each other.
Another design-construction method thats used as an alternative to design-bid-build is whats called the general contractor-construction manager process.
Through that process, an architect works with an owner, but brings in a builder during the early stages of design. The architect and general contractor have separate contracts with the owner, but the three parties still work collaboratively.
Madsen says that process has gained favor in recent years, because it has been used successfully on a few big-ticket projects at the Riverpoint Higher Education Campus.
The planned $76 million expansion and remodel of the Spokane Convention Center also will be a general contractor-construction manager project.
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE