January 25, 2011

Four Key Values in Design Assist

CoffeeOften it seems like choosing the ideal project delivery model is like trying to buy a coffee off of one of those specialty coffee house menus;  too many selections with not enough time to choose which one is the best. 

All of these options have advantages and disadvantages depending on the project type, scope of work, and complexity.  One delivery method we have found owners find value (and is not always on the menu with some contractors) is a Design Assist agreement.  In a Design Assist arrangement the subcontractor provides support to the engineering team to help validate the owner’s program and scope are attainable within the project parameters. The following are some specific areas of the project where a subcontractor can add significant value.

Installation Techniques:  Through continuous industry training, specialty contractors are always up-to-speed with new materials and installation techniques that an engineer may not be aware of. With this knowledge, the specialty contractor can help guide the design towards or away from these new materials and techniques.  In essence it is providing “evidence base design” to assist an owner in the decision making process.

Identification of Code Issues:  Building codes can vary depending on what state, county or municipality you are in. Engaging a subcontractor through the Design Assist process can help eliminate code compliance surprises during the building process, and also help build relationships prior to starting the project.  The subcontractor can rely on their past experience to help the engineer in identifying code issues that may be of a concern to the local officials.  Having the subcontractor involved in the communication with the local officials earlier will also help in working through field inspections and questions during the construction phase. 

Budgeting:  All projects have budgets that they need to adhere to, and depending on the financing structure, funding may be completed or in progress before the project is 100 percent bid. Through the Design Assist process a subcontractor will also include budgeting of the project as the design is being completed. This will help eliminate scope creep that would put a project into an over-budget situation. This typically requires the project to be redesigned and rebid, which in turn, results in project start delays.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)The growth and development of BIM has offered building owners a service previously unavailable. Coordination issues with the major subcontractor trades, structural components, and architectural features have typically been coordinated through 2D drawings, yet there are still many areas of the design that “clash” with one another. Choosing to engage subcontractors early through the Design Assist model will help in reducing coordination issues and ultimately, change orders. Through the use of Revit MEP and Navisworks, contractors, engineers, and architects can work together early in the identification of coordination issues, resolve them in the BIM model, and then execute in the field with little to no changes.

So the next time you are standing in front of the menu contemplating a decision, don’t be afraid to stray away from typical order and give Design Assist a try!