This year's Professional Design-Build (D/B) Conference, sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), showcased both the accomplishments and challenges faced by D/B practitioners. While the approach has exploded in sophistication and market share-especially in the public sector-design/build is still widely equated with fast, cheap projects, and not necessarily with aesthetics and long-term value.
To help contend with this image, the American Institute of Architects served as cosponsor again and even unveiled a new D/B workbook. Several well-known architects came, such as Albuquerque, N.M.'s Antoine Predock, San Diego's Carrier Johnson and Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz (KMD), San Francisco.
Still, even the architects in attendance acknowledged the real challenge of producing signature designs. Bradley S. Buchanan, principal of Buchanan Yonushewski Group Architects, Denver, reminded attendees that buildings are created for "commodity, purpose and delight. And that 'delight factor' has to be there, which is hard to do in a commodity-driven value-engineering process."
There was ample proof of this difficulty among the 26 projects awarded at the Design-Build Education and Research Foundation's gala dinner. All were certainly studies in effective at-risk project administration-Sundt Construction, for example, delivered a conference center for Raytheon Missile Systems in a mere 54 calendar days-but only a few truly offered images to match their efficiency. Of note were the San Francisco Civic Center by HSH Design/Build Inc.-in collaboration with Skidmore Owings & Merrill-and the Alameda County (Calif.) Recorder's Building by Hensel Phelps and KMD.
Such design successes, ironically, are vastly overshadowed by D/B's legacy of controlling costs and schedules. So as more owners buy into the method, those A/E firms with D/B track records stand to benefit. But to speed owner acceptance, DBIA needs to strengthen the case that D/B and high design go hand in hand.