Design-build successful projects
How the design-build method promotes a team environment to get construction projects done faster and with fewer issues.
BakingBusiness.com, September 1, 2013
by Shane Whitaker, Baking & Snack

Bakers and snack manufacturers generally are adept at making the foods they are accustomed to rather than building plants. Certainly, they have personnel in place to keep plants running ­efficiently and maintaining and sanitizing equipment. Larger companies will even have engineering divisions responsible for installing and managing lines, but for the most part, they are not in the business of building new plants.

Keeping everyone on the same page when undertaking a construction project can be a major challenge, and that is why bakeries or snack manufacturers will work with outside architects, engineers and contractors whose job it is to develop and implement these projects. Within this, there are many different approaches to these services with variations found in the contractual relationships between the architect, engineer, contractor and baker.

Design-build is one of the most common methods for implementing bakery and snack manufacturing projects, according to Michael Pierce, president of The Austin Co., Cleveland. 

“This method takes advantage of experienced teams that work together with the bakery equipment vendors and the bakery to deliver a successful project,” he said. “While there are many variations of design-build, a common characteristic is that it does not put the architect-engineer in an adversarial role with the contractor, leaving the baker to arbitrate between the two. Rather, it puts them on the same team with common goals.”

Mr. Pierce started his career at Austin in 1980 as a mechanical engineer with its Process Division. He held a number of positions at the firm during the past 33 years, including vice-president for emerging markets, where he directed the company’s entry into underserved market niches with long-term growth potential.

Prior to being named the company’s president in 2011, Mr. Pierce served as senior vice-president and general manager of the firm’s Cleveland Design and Construction Operation, and he also oversaw its sales and marketing strategies and initiatives. He earned a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of Mississippi and is a member of the American Bakers Association, the American Society of Baking and BEMA, where he serves on the Baking Industry Forum.

Baking & Snack: Define a design-build project and what that means for a bakery or snack manufacturer.

Michael Pierce: A bakery or snack manufacturer might use any number of variations of design-build, but in most cases, they begin the project with the architect-engineer and the construction manager identified and working together. They may be from the same company or a joint venture, or one may be subcontracted to the other. Typically, the architect-engineer is subcontracted to the construction manager.

In this case, the architect and engineer work to design the project to optimize the competing needs of the project. Certainly, the facility has to be designed to meet the production strategy driving the investment, but also there is a budget and schedule that must be met. Design-build features a collaborative relationship between all the parties — the designers, the contractors and the owners. Cost and schedule issues are identified in the early design stages so that there are no surprises when the bids come in.

I think the most important aspect for a baking and snack manufacturer is that design-build puts the baker on a team with his or her selected design and construction professionals. If the designers and contractors are pitted against each other with differing incentives, the baker has decisions to make but is often the least experienced member of the team to arbitrate between the different firms.

What is a design-bid-build project, and how does it differ from design-build?

Design-bid-build is where the design is done, and then the baker sends the drawings out to competing contractors for bids. The contractor’s goal is to win the work, and this approach often puts the contractor and the architect-engineer in an adversarial role on technical and other project issues. The baker is the one who has to decide who wins and who loses. The reason design-bid-build is used is that it provides the opportunity to competitively bid the construction based on a set of completed construction documents.

However, if the contractors are bidding on a lump-sum competitive basis, the low price will be offered by the contactor who has a competitive advantage or perhaps has interpreted the bid documents to the lowest intent of quality and scope. In comparison, design-build is most typically done by a team, which includes the architect, engineer and contractor, that is selected based on qualifications. This team is given a set of project goals and is expected to achieve those goals as a team. 

What advantages do these types of projects offer?

Design-bid is faster, less expensive and has shown to have better quality. It promotes a team environment. Design-bid-build promotes competitive pricing and is important for those firms that require multiple bids for their work. However, studies by the Construction Industry Institute have demonstrated design-build to be faster and less costly with better quality than design-bid-build.

What are some of the disadvantages to each?

Design-build requires a strong degree of confidence and trust in your selected architect-engineer and construction manager/general contractor.

Design-bid-build demands that the bakery has strong project experience and is at least as conversant in the design and construction of bakery and snack facilities as the architect-engineer and construction manager-general contractor.

Is there a type of construction management that is most advantageous for renovation or expansion projects vs. greenfield construction projects?

For renovation projects and expansions, you need a design-build team of architect-engineers and builders working collaboratively on the project to rapidly respond to the challenges of the many unknowns in a renovation project. Both are well-suited to greenfield projects.

How does a company select a construction management firm? Does it matter whether projects are overseen by engineering or construction firms, and if so, why?

Construction managers are most often selected based on their experience with this type of construction. Owners want a construction manager who understands how a bakery comes together and materials of construction and the best ways of installing them.

Construction work needs to be overseen by a contractor, not an engineer. Means and methods of construction are critical to effective execution, and a builder knows them better than an engineer.

What assistance can the construction management firm provide during the site selection process?

The architect-engineer is really better suited to assist with the site selection process. The architect-engineer can help assess how the building will best be situated on the site and identify issues with the site that may make it a poor selection to go with.

How does a design-build contractor work with equipment manufacturers during setup and start-up of manufacturing lines?

The design-build contractor and the vendors ideally are collaborating from the start. The architect-engineer is the best source for ­integrating all the equipment layouts on the architectural floor plans to ensure proper planning for layout of columns, utilities, lighting, egress, etc. If this is a fast-track project, the construction manager will need to ensure that his subcontractors cooperate, manage and accommodate the equipment installers and that the equipment installers are adhering to appropriate safety practices when they are in construction areas.