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In defense of the design professional.

Owners and prospective owners of food industry processing and storage facilities have been bombarded over the past year or so with a series of articles dealing with construction methodology. Many of these articles have been authored by general contractor personnel, so the obvious message has been design-build oriented. This message has, in fact, recently approached condemnation of professional engineering firms as unnecessary deterrents to the construction process, and even engineers in general, unless, of course, they are employed by contractors.

Contractors have a vested interest in convincing the industry to deal directly with the contractor in a design-build mode, thus bypassing the engineering firm. It is a lot easier to negotiate a design-build "deal" with an owner than to compete competitively with peer contractors, based on a complete a set of design documents (plans and specifications), and a lot more potentially profitable for the contractor.

Hats off to the contractors in one area, however. They seem to do a lot better job of selling the "design-build" concept to our industry than we engineers do in explaining the virtues of the engineering design and competitive general contractor bid approach to project execution. There are many construction methodologies utilized today. They include "design-build", "design-competitive bid", "design-construction management", "Concept design-competitive design-build bid", and so on. There are also "pure" and "un-pure" versions of these options, depending on who is doing the selling. Our purpose at this time is not to write a book on all of these variations, but simply to defend the professional engineering profession and explain why engineers have, do currently, and will continue to meet an industry need.

The classic design and competitive contractor bid approach to construction starts with owner selection of a qualified professional engineering firm. This process may include a look by the owner at multiple firms, and selection based on qualifications and, in some cases, fee proposals. The first order of business after selection of the firm is development of complete owner requirements at an agreed-upon design year (usually at least five (5) years hence). This requirement's definition is done in team concert with owner and engineer, and becomes the basis for design development. Then, the engineering firm assumes the lead in development of design concepts which meet the predetermined need. Here is where all of the viable alternatives are identified and cost/benefit trade-off analysis is made. These alternatives include facility layout for optimized productivity and expandability, and systems for optimized energy and maintenance cost expectations. The owner and engineer evaluate alternatives developed and decide on a design concept which is clearly justifiable and in concert with the owners long-range needs. The owner has, in fact, been an integral partner in the master planning of the facility and all facility sub-systems. In being an integral part of this planning process, the owner has established a benchmark for the quality of the facility and a budget cost expectation.

After concept planning is complete, the emphasis shifts to the engineering firm. The concept is transitioned to a full design with complete documentation. Detailed plans and specifications are developed which clearly spell out all technical requirements of the facility and its supporting systems. The owner's insurance carrier's requirements are integrated into this design as are the requirements of local governing authorities. These plans and specifications, accompanied by a full set of bidding requirements, are sent to pre-qualified general contractors. The engineer also uses these plans to obtain all required permits and approvals from governing authorities on behalf of the owner. At this point, we should quantify "plans and specifications". A 150,000 square foot perishable warehouse with multiple temperature levels, a refrigerated dock and a central engine room may result in preparation of up to 120 drawings with 3 or 4 inches of written specifications.

Pre-qualified general contractors prepare firm lump-sum bids for construction of the facility as defined in the plans and specifications. They do this by soliciting bids from subcontractors, as appropriate. The contractors are encouraged to list alternatives as they may deem appropriate and as may be justified for owner/engineer consideration. All bids are reviewed by the owner and engineer and a general contractor is selected. The engineer generally prepares a contract in AIA format for execution between owner and contractor.

During the construction process, the engineering firm remains involved as the owner's representative. This includes review of vendor submittals to monitor for compliance to plans and specifications, periodic technical inspections and administration of the construction contract on behalf of the owner. Contract administration includes screening of any change order or progress payment requests from the contractor.

This very general overview of the engineering design and competitive general contractor bid approach to construction results in numerous owner benefits as follows: 1. The owner is totally involved in the

all important planning process and,

in fact, determines the size, shape

and quality of his facility. The

engineer provides the owner with

all of the alternatives and trade-off

analysis so that justifiable decisions

are made. To be unbiased in

our approach to this subject, we

should point out that a design-builder

can also work with an

owner in the planning process, but

this assumes a negotiated deal

with one design-builder and no

competition. Engineering firm involvement,

however, provides the

owner with a complete range of

viable alternatives and economic

trade-off analysis in an unbiased

fashion. Then, we can move on to

competitive bidding, based on

common scope and common documentation

of owner desires for

quality. 2. The facility is designed and

documented in detail by the engineering

firm prior to solicitation of

construction bids by qualified contractors.

The bids are therefore all

based on a common scope of work

and can be easily analyzed. The

owner receives competitive bidding

from pre-qualified general contractors

and these competitive bids are

all based on one well-defined facility

description (the plans and specifications). 3. Because bidding is based on a full

set of design documentation, the

risk of contract overruns due to

change orders during construction

is greatly reduced. When a facility

is defined in 120 drawings and 3 or

4 inches of specification, it is difficult

to request change orders

based on lack of scope definition

prior to bid. 4. The owner has, in the engineering

firm, a representative to look out

for his or her interests during the

construction process. This is a

"check-and-balance" procedure

which limits risks of overruns due

to changes, or building quality

compromises due to non-approved

substitutions. It also relieves the

owner from these important watchdog

duties. Few owners have in-house

personnel fully experienced

in the construction process which

can be totally devoted to these

duties. 5. The permitting and approval process

is easily handled by the engineering

firm, based on a full set of

technical documentation. There is

little risk of permitting delay due to

lack of definition or construction

hold-ups due to lack of documentation. 6. The construction contract is

prepared by the engineering firm in

industry-accepted format, and further

is administered on behalf of

the owner. The owner need not

worry about contract language and

associated risk.

These benefits can all be valued to varying degrees. In return, the owner pays the engineering firm a fee for services outlined. This fee is generally much lower, expressed as a percentage of construction cost, than the total value accrued from the benefits listed. As an example, competitive bidding by general contractors and reduced risk of change order driven overruns alone can often be documented at 2 to 3 times the fee paid to the design professional. If engineering design and project management fees were not well justified, design professionals would not be in business.

In developing a case for the classic design and competitive contractor-bid approach to construction, we established one ground-rule. That was to be unbiased in our treatment of this subject. This ground-rule will hopefully separate this article from articles written by contractors which imply that engineering firms have no place in, or add any value to, the building process.

We do not have space to compare the classic engineering design and competitive contractor bid approach to every other construction methodology, so we will compare it to the "design-build" approach which is receiving a lot of editorial attention of late. The design-build approach provides three (3) owner benefits as follows: 1. The entire planning/design/construction

process can be compressed

from a timing standpoint

by phasing design and construction.

The owner benefits by getting

the facility faster. This benefit is

often lost, in part, if the local permitting

process requires full design

documentation prior to start of

construction, but it is still a potential

"design-build" benefit to varying

degrees. 2. The owner only has to enter into

one contract. The benefit is single-source

responsibility. 3. The owner knows what the total

project cost will be earlier in the

process. If the owner negotiates a

fixed price contract with a "design-build"

firm, this negotiation is

typically based on 15 to 20 conceptual

drawings and a description of

the facility, its materials and

systems prepared by the design-builder.

If the owner takes competitive

bids from multiple design-builders,

all competing contractors

prepare this concept documentation.

In either event, the owner

receives a fixed-price proposal

quicker than he may receive in the

"design and competitive contractor

bid" methodology, because complete

design documentation (120

drawings and 3 or 4 inches of specifications

as stated in an earlier

example) is prepared prior to the

competitive general contractor

bid/award procedure, and this can

take up to 10 or 12 weeks.

Articles written by contractors on the "design-build" approach often refer to benefits accruing to the design-competitive bid methodology, but then attempt to discredit these benefits. That will not be done here. The three (3) benefits listed are real and stand on merit.

The trick, therefore, is to consider the advantages of both (or many) methodologies and decide which is best for your unique application. "Design-build" works well in some applications and for certain types of owners. "Design-competitive contractor bid" works well in other applications and for other types of owners. The owner must decide which approach is best for his unique need.

Hopefully, we have provided a bit of a foundation upon which to base your construction methodology evaluation. Use this as a starting point, then contact both "design-builder" and "design professional" and request a more detailed face-to-face presentation on merits related to your specific need. As engineers we stick our necks way out suggesting this type of approach because as already acknowledged--the contractors seem to be better salesmen--but we'll take our chances. We're already involved in an estimated 70% or more of the work being done, so we must be doing something right.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:engineering design of cold storage warehouses
Author:Cooksey, David L.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Custom packing, guaranteed quality, full information brought to marketplace by Canadian lobster industry.
Next Article:Time to take the industry's temperature.

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