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Project delivery systems ... consider the alternatives.

The food industry posted approximately $400 billion in sales in 1991. Competition among large and small firms for their share of this vast marketplace creates a continuing need for food companies to renovate, expand and build new facilities. Once a facility requirement has been identified, a food company can choose among various types of construction project delivery systems.

The "Traditional Method" involves an owner retaining an architect/engineer and a contractor under separate agreements. The architect/engineer is normally selected based upon experience and ability to develop an owner's project concept into a complete set of plans and specifications. The contractor (normally selected by a qualified low bid) agrees to construct the facility so that the intent of the plans and specifications is achieved.

Several potential problems may be encountered in this type of project approach:

1. The architect/engineer may or may not have the cost knowledge to insure that their final design can be built within the owner's budget or to make value engineering judgements during the design process. All too often, this contractor based knowledge is inputed after bids and difficult to incorporate efficiently into the design. Unfortunately, if cost knowledge is lacking, a lengthy design and bid process may result in a project cost that is unacceptable to the owner.

2. The competitive bid process creates an adversarial situation for contractor's and this can sometimes create pressure to utilize methods or materials that are not in the owner's best interests. Unfortunately, shortcuts employed to submit the low bid, can reduce the value an owner expects to receive from his investment.

3. If a dispute arises between the architect/engineer and contractor, an owner can be placed in the unenviable position of having to sort through the arguments of both sides and make a decision on where to seek remedy. If an owner does not have strong technical competence, his decision for one side or the other may not be correct. The effort spent in resolving such disputes will also take valuable time away from the owner's principal business interest.

4. As a project progresses from the owner's concept to completed construction, changes will occur. With the architect/engineer and contractor engaged as separate entities, changes will first have to be evaluated and incorporated into existing plans by the architect/engineer. In many cases, contractor progress will be delayed during this modification period. Once new plans and specifications are available, the contractor will have to identify cost and schedule impacts. All of these activities take time and may mean that critical deadlines are not met.

The "Design/Build" project delivery system distinguishes itself by having a single entity assume total project responsibility. This entity may be a combination of firms that combine their individual expertise in a joint effort, or most commonly a true design/build organization where architecture, engineering, construction and in some cases subcontracting capabilities, share a common roof and common management. In either case, the owner looks to a single point of responsibility for adherence to cost, schedule and quality objectives.

The owner's advantages most commonly associated with this type of project approach are reviewed below:

1. Accurate costs can be identified early in the project development process minimizing time and cost spent to verify a projects feasibility. An experienced design/builder will involve construction personnel at the earliest possible point. Their construction experience and cost knowledge are combined with the architectural and engineering recommendations so that all possible building systems and methods can be evaluated. Typically, a fixed construction contract amount can be finalized once design documents reach a 20%-30% completion stage.

2. The contracting role becomes creative and participatory rather than adversarial. The combination of architectural, engineering and construction resources offered by a design/builder work in concert with the owner to pursue a common goal. As an integral part of the owner's team, the design/builder will provide cost-effective solutions in a framework insuring that owner expectations will be met.

3. The owner does not have to worry about mediating disputes between the architect/engineer and contractor. The design/builder is the single-source for project responsibility. The owner can direct any questions or concerns to the design/builder and expect the issues to be resolved.

4. In the case of a true design/build organization, architectural, engineering and construction resources are available in a single location. They have worked together on similar projects in the past and learned together as a team. Informal and formal communications take place more swiftly in response to owner questions, as well as responding efficiently to owner requested changes, that always occur. Overhead costs are also reduced.

5. The design/build delivery system typically reduces the total project delivery time. The ability to identify project costs at an early stage and the close association of architectural, engineering and construction disciplines can contribute to a reduction in the time required for design documentation. Construction on some phases of the work can begin while later phases of project design are still in process. This ability to "fast track" project delivery is greatly enhanced with a design/build approach.

Thus far, we have discussed the potential problems of the "Traditional Method" and the benefits of "Design/Build". It is now fair to address the concerns that are commonly expressed by owners about the design/build project delivery system and how design/build firms should be addressing these issues.

Owner Concern--How do I know I am getting competitive pricing?

With the increasing acceptance of design/build project delivery, owner's are frequently utilizing a design/build competition to select their design/build firm. By seeking proposals from several qualified design/builders, an owner will be able to receive a comparative project cost information and use this information to the extent desired in making a final selection. In the process, the owner receives the added benefit of alternative design strategies to achieve the project goals.

Owner Concern--An independent architect/engineer will offer greater assurance that plans and specifications are adhered to by the contractor.

The professional architects and engineers employed by reputable design/builders have gone through the same training and licensure procedures as the architects and engineers of an independent A/E firm and adhere to the same professional standards.

Experienced design/build firms will utilize an independent in-house inspection team that reports directly to the top A/E management. At critical points in the construction process, inspection personnel and design engineers will visit the project site to insure full compliance with all plans and specifications. A written inspection report is prepared after each visit and submitted to the owner and the appropriate design professionals. It includes a listing of any discrepancies, corrective action required and a time schedule for taking appropriate action.

Owner's need to make sure that the design/build firms are capable of addressing these standard concerns, as well as special concerns generated by their project's individual requirements. It is essential, for owner satisfaction, that the design/build has a proven track record as a team, in lieu of experiences as individuals. Teamwork is becoming a way of life in the food industry and the design/build delivery system exemplifies team approach.

Ronald P. Vallort is Chief Engineering Officer for The Haskell Company, a Jacksonville, Florida based firm ranked 12th in the nation among design/build building firms. It offers a broad range of professional services, serving the food industry for processing, distribution and refrigeration. Mr. Vallort has 27 years of experience in facility design and engineering. He holds multi-state registrations as a professional engineer, is an active member of IARW and also serves as a national director for ASHRAE.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:management of food processing plant construction projects
Author:Vallort, Ronald P.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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