Applied Knowledge

Three Reasons to Choose Design-Build For Physical Security Projects

May 10th, 2012 · 7:59 am @   - 

Historically, the most common method for constructing a new building or building improvements was what is known as Design-Bid-Build.   In this approach, the owner hires a design team to create a detailed set of drawings and specifications which completely describes what is to be constructed.  The owner then puts the project out to bid for construction, receiving and evaluating proposals from construction contractors.  Finally – once the owner has gone through the proposals, selected a contractor, and negotiated a contract – the construction can begin.   In many cases, the overall time from identification of need to completion of construction can be quite lengthy, especially for public and quasi-public agencies which have many contracting regulations that extend the bid and bid review process.

An alternative to this is the Design-Build approach.  The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) defines Design-Build as “a method of project delivery in which one entity – the design-build team – works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services.”     There are many varieties of design-build; from an RFP that basically says “I want a wall” to a much more rigorous approach (such as is often used by the US Government) where a set of drawings and performance specifications are developed to between 10% and 35% completion.   In between these two extremes is the “this is generally what I want” approach, which provides a rough sketch of what is wanted  with a list of the essential design requirements.

When talking about security improvement projects such as blast hardening, anti-ram barriers, forced entry/ballistic resistant elements, entry control points, etc; Design-Build can be the best approach to rapid, cost effective implementation.

Less Time.     This can’t be emphasized enough, the design-build approach will reduce the amount of time from identification of a security need to implemented protections – by orders of magnitude.   There are numerous reasons for this, which include:

  • The owner only has to go through a single bidding process (this alone can take multiple months off project duration).
  • Once the baseline design has been agreed to between the design-builder and the owner, building materials which may have long fabrication and delivery times can be ordered while the rest of the design is being completed.   This can be especially beneficial in remote areas where shipping can be measured in months rather than weeks, in countries where customs clearance regularly cause delays, and on projects that require specialty items (such as forced entry/ballistic resistant doors and windows) that have relatively few certified manufacturers.

Less Cost.     By combining the design and construction responsibilities into one entity (the design-builder), the design process becomes more efficient.   This happens because

  • The engineers on the design-build team will be more precise in their design;  taking into account the local material and labor resources, the ease of construction of different solutions, variables such as weather and customs limitations, and potential phasing of the construction  process, and
  • The engineers will also be able to create more ‘bare-bones’  set of drawings and specifications.  This is because they will be involved in the entire construction process and will be able to ensure that sub-contractors meet the requirements without describing each element in painstaking detail.

The designers in a design-bid-build scenario do not have control over who the contractor will be, what resources or specialties the contractor will have, or how the final construction phasing will take place and they can therefore not tailor the design to the actual circumstances as much as a design-builder.

Less Risk to Owner.    By having a single point of responsibility, the design-build approach reduces the risk of cost and schedule overruns and decreases the possibility of finger pointing between the contractor and the designer, which can happen in Design-Bid-Build projects when there are conflicts or omissions in the drawings.

While no project is perfect, and there will always be bumps in the road when it comes to construction projects, the Design-Build approach can lessen the effects of these and will provide implemented protection measures in a more timely and cost effective manner.

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