The delivery method that reconciled the fact that contractors and designers are no longer adversaries—but now partners with common goals—is working on the next relationship stage. Today, design-build partners realize the necessity of including subcontractors as part of the design-build team at the start of a project.
To achieve this next step in the design-build delivery method, project partners must overcome two misconceptions: first, a stereotypical adversarial relationship between contractor and subcontractor; and second, the perception that this early partnership requires sacrificing the best price. Getting past these issues is critical to expanding the synergies of the design-build team and ensuring the most successful project.
Early inclusion of subcontractors will advance project success by enhancing the capabilities of the team, further promoting the collaborative nature of the design-build delivery method, and painting a more positive image of the industry as a whole.
Finding the Right Team Members
Just as every contractor and every design firm will not make the perfect design-build team, not every subcontractor makes the ideal design-build team member. Include subcontractors that share similar philosophies as the contractor and design firm. More than just finding subcontractors that understand the concept of working as a team, look for those that welcome it. Identifying the right subcontractor team members will make the responsibilities of the design-build team easier and the project run more smoothly, creating a speedier and more economical end result.
Subcontractors that oversee strategic portions of the scope of work should be invited to join the team early. The team benefits from their specific expertise, and the subcontractor buys in to the common goal from the initial concept. This ensures a more cohesive process throughout the entire project and helps eliminate issues that otherwise may arise as the project progresses. Coordination improves during the project, increasing efficiency and decreasing stress.
Don’t Fall for the Lowest Price
Understanding the nuances between low price and best value requires a perception shift, but it pays off in the end. The lowest price can be deceptive. How often has it been discovered in the midst of a project that the bottom dollar bidder did not budget for inevitable surprises? In this scenario, the low price may put the success of the project at risk.
Savvy subcontractors budget for contingencies to deal with project surprises, keep the project on track and stay in business. Subcontractors that anticipate a truly cost-effective project often are not the lowest bidders.
Keep in mind the later a key subcontractor is brought into the project, the higher the contingencies that need to go into their price—reducing the chances of bringing on the right subcontractor for the project’s budget.
Subcontractors as Cost-Savers
When involved early in a design-assist or design-build role, subcontractors frequently offer valuable ideas about where savings can be created without sacrificing quality. They see where time can be saved to advance the project more efficiently toward final completion.
Subcontractors also anticipate potential issues and know how to work toward successful resolutions upfront.
Teams interested in winning future design-build projects understand they must bring more to the table than the lowest bid. They must work together to meet the owner’s goals for quality, budget and schedule, and they must develop strong relationships to ensure the team’s long-term growth and success.