In the Know

Design-Build Collaboration Sets Projects Up for Success Early

By Jordan Scott and Ellen Rogers

The share of design-build projects among total construction spending is anticipated to grow 18 percent by 2021*, reaching more than $320 billion. Owners are driving this trend due to the improved delivery schedule created by collaboration, but it makes the process smoother and more cost effective for both architects and glaziers through the improved flow of information.

The Architecture Perspective

GLUCK+ Architects in New York relies on contract glaziers early in the process to not just provide budget pricing, but to help the firm understand the constraints and opportunities that the project presents.

“The questions we like to ask early on are not just what types of products and applications seem well-suited to what the design team is developing, but also the types of staging and logistics questions that are impossible to estimate on a dollars-per-square-foot basis,” says GLUCK+ associate Cory Collman. “How best to coordinate access to a tight site? Would they rather work on the exterior from lifts or would they prefer swing stages? How best to sequence their work? These questions may seem inconsequential early on, but more often than not lead to a better final product installation and substantial savings for our clients.”

When it comes to glass and glazing specification, Collman says that GLUCK+ typically pro-poses the initial specs for how a system needs to perform related to assumptions the design team is developing for structural and mechanical scopes.

“We then solicit feedback from glaziers about which applications and products are well-suited to those needs and whether the project’s glazing budget is being spent wisely toward those items,” says Collman.

Using the design-build project delivery method facilitates communication and helps projects progress smoothly thanks to the insight brought by sub-contractors early in the process. Using the design-build method solves the problem of silos that often exist among the various trade disciplines involved, which Collman says is one of the biggest challenges architects often have with glazing contractors.

“Architects tend not to really, deeply under-stand how enclosure systems are actually fabricated, assembled and built, and glaziers typically are not consulted nor put in a position to make recommendations early on for improving how a design will work,” he says. “Like many situations that arise on construction projects, this can be solved by allowing the people who understand the expectations for the project: the design team, to communicate directly with the people who will actually be building the project: the subcontractors. Early, direct communication between these parties allows the design documents (and subsequently the construction documents) to be tailored to reflect reality. Being included in the design conversations allows the glazing sub-contractor to make meaningful suggestions to improve the system before it is fully documented.”

One of the biggest surprises experienced by many contract glaziers working on an architect led design build (ALDB) project, according to Collman, is that they actually have agency.

“They are a member of the decision-making table early on, recommending ideas that are ultimately incorporated into the contract documents,” he says. “This naturally helps thoughtful, skilled installers who know their trades stand apart from their competitors because the expertise becomes instrumental to the process.”

Collman says that working with a glazing contractor on an ALDB project just makes sense.

“In the same way that you can’t make a building without thinking of the plumbing or the roofing, you can’t think about a building without how the exterior enclosure works,” he says. “When well-managed, the design-build process simply brings the decision-making parties together as shared collaborators, rather than isolated adversaries.”

The Glazing Perspective

Contract glaziers are quick to point out the numerous challenges inherent in working with architectural designs and specifications using the traditional project delivery method. According to Coleman Jones, director of business development with Pioneer Cladding and Glazing Systems in Cincinnati, these can include issues with door and hardware specifications. He says this information isn’t always available early when the project is awarded.

“And when they are available, they’re specified in a configuration that doesn’t work,” he says.

Another concern he points out is that specifications are becoming increasingly stringent and are sometimes unobtainable while warranties keep growing. And then there’s timing.

“The design changes and the lack of decision-making delay projects and hurt every party involved,” he says. “This costs everyone time, money and even people.”

Kristopher Lazaroff who is a part of the Elicc America Group field business development team, says all of the projects his company takes on are design-assist, allowing them to work closely with the project team, including owners, architects and contractors.

“We are able to design the most cost-effective system to meet the aesthetic and functional needs, such as sound transmission and thermal insulation capabilities,” he says. “We are also able to design the most cost-efficient system for installation speeding up construction time such as changing from a window wall to curtainwall system.”

Marty Trainor, vice president of pre-construction with Ventana Design-Build Systems based in Chicago, agrees that the biggest challenge with specifications are the inconsistencies.

“Specifications can ask for certain materials that do not meet the performance requirements stated in other sections of the specification,” he says. “Do we bid the specified materials or the more expensive materials that meet the performance requirements?” He adds that specifications often call for warranty terms that are not commercially available for purchase, and glass breakage is chief among them.

“Glass manufacturers will not warranty this item and, if the contract glazing company does not exclude this, it will be responsible for any glass breakage during the warranty period.”

Getting involved with the project early on can help alleviate many of these issues.

“You get brought in as part of the solution, you can create reverse schedules, note important lead times and head off multiple problems,” Jones says. “Additionally, being brought in as a design-assist partner helps align each party’s goals. One of the key factors from this point is establishing a clear budget.”

He adds, “In a true collaboration, people see each other’s value to the team and their position within the project. This allows the team to use multiple heads to value engineer. Members think outside of the box to ultimately have a building that performs, looks amazing and is within budget.”

*Source: The “Design-Build Utilization” report from FMI

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