Addressing client concerns about design-assist

Common concerns about DA include lack of familiarity, obtaining competitive pricing, and design liability.

July 11, 2016 |

Construction in Miami in July 2016. Photo: Phillip Pessar/Creative Commons.

Design-assist is not without potential drawbacks. Here are some common concerns—and how your Building Team can reassure clients that DA is worth considering.

OWNER CONCERN: Lack of familiarity with design-assist. DA is a relatively new delivery model. Architects and CMs may have a tendency to revert back to traditional roles.

PLAN OF ACTION: Although the DA process produces a more efficient, collaborative design process, care must be taken to ensure that the collaborative process continues throughout construction. During construction, there are inevitable owner concerns. That’s why it’s important to have established a process to address these changes. The collaborative process can be used to resolve challenges in a quick, cost-effective manner.

OWNER CONCERN: Subcontract administration. The subcontractor might not perform as expected or fall out of line with the budget.

PLAN OF ACTION: It is important to administer a preconstruction contract with the DA subcontractor, which allows the owner to terminate the agreement at any time prior to construction. This acts as a safeguard when a subcontractor’s pricing is not in line with the budget, and there is no reasonable way to get to the budget; in such a case, the owner would have reasonable cause to terminate the subcontractor’s contract. In this situation the trade package would need to be bid, which could push back the schedule depending on the selection process.

OWNER CONCERN: Obtaining competitive pricing. Some owners believe early involvement with subcontractors and the construction manager in the project precludes them from receiving competitive bids.

PLAN OF ACTION: Because the construction team is hired early in the design phase, the Building Team can obtain benchmark prices during the programming phase, making competitive pricing feasible. The Building Team can also obtain nonbinding preliminary price proposals during the DA selection process based on initial plans, such as schematic drawings; binding final prices can be submitted upon completion of the plans.

OWNER CONCERN: Added costs of the DA process. Design-assist may add time and cost to the design phase of the project due to additional collaboration with subcontractors and added time to procure services.

PLAN OF ACTION: The reductions achieved in construction cost and schedule should offset additional costs during the design phases, making design-assist advantageous overall.

OWNER CONCERN: Design liability. Greater collaboration among the architect, engineer, subcontractors, and construction manager might raise questions about who has responsibilities and design liability throughout the process.

PLAN OF ACTION: The project team should clearly set obligations and liabilities of the team members with respect to plans, specifications, and the building information model (if applicable) to overcome this concern. You should also develop a design-assist execution plan to identify roles, responsibilities, and deliverables for all team members.

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