Design Build

High Concept Project Rendering

During the past several months I have been meeting with many industry leaders in the fields of design, engineering, architecture and planning to discuss the future of professional services in the hospitality and cruise industry. As we had these discussions one subject kept reoccurring. Has the industry approach to design changed due to the slow economy? Today it appears that more and more owners want to pursue a design build approach as a method to reduce project risk and cost at the sacrifice of design aesthetics and sustainability. The question in itself is big, yet it gets even bigger when you ask; can an independent quality driven firm compete in this new design/build world with general contractors seeking the lowest fees possible to reduce project costs?

As a professional designer we each rely on an opportunity to bid on or earn a shot at the design scope of work early in a project directly from the owner. As the project scopes increase and economic factors grow larger, owners pursue non creative representatives or program managers too early in a projects life cycle. The PM’s or Owner’s rep then buy professional services usually at the lowest price and with self imposed limitations or in design terms “blinders on”! With projects now lead by Construction Manager’s with MBA’s many non financial aspects of creative design process go out the window early. Projects can quickly move from inspirational sketches and concepts to balance sheets and charts. In the early days designers generated quick sketches and early conceptual renderings to capture the personality, look and feel for a project prior to any feasibility or viability work being completed. Today most projects never even get a rendering produced or have a hand drawn sketch to guide the design process, and the concept is never fully vetted. Before anyone can visualize the project; numbers are being crunched and programs defined with tight price driven deliverable lists, renderings and creative ideas are never even considered as line items.

Design/build can certainly produce a quality project but only if the design is completed before the build starts. A recent project we peer reviewed demonstrated how that design first concept was lost. A project reviewed met the technical and financial requirements of the RFP but lacked any real functionality /practicality or aesthetic. The creative process and conceptual design effort was never even executed. The Program Manager won the design/build contract for the project; then reviewed the project and started over from scratch. Yet again not with a creative driven process but an engineering driven evaluation based on the proposed use and cost plus basis.
Every project must be designed and visualized before being built or we will find ourselves living in a Design/Built world of plain vanilla boxes that are efficient and cheap but not much to look at, and no fun to live inside of!

Quaility driven design firms need to combine forces with quality builders and contractors to create design driven teams and demonstrate that creative design can lead to a more sucessful buiding project and not exceed budgets. Good design processes can save money and deliver a much more valuable project for the owner.

Walk Good and inspire others to dream!