In the Know

Project Delivery Methods: Jeff Haber Compares Design-Assist and Delegated Design

The ways in which stakeholders manage projects and communicate are evolving. Project delivery methods are giving glazing contractors a more direct line of communication to architects earlier in the design phase.

What’s the Difference?

Jeff Haber, managing partner of W&W Glass, says his New York company primarily involves itself in projects using Design-Assist or Delegated Design delivery methods. Delegated Design involves the design team re-allocating design responsibility, traditionally within the scope of the architect of record, to a specialty contractor. Design-Assist is a procurement method whereby one or more subcontractors are engaged prior to the completion of the design by the architect and engineer to collaborate and mitigate cost and schedule issues for the client.

“In Delegated Design, we’d be the engineer of record for our system. In Design-Assist the architect maintains design control and we’d work in a collaborative environment to flesh out any differences, whether it’s tolerances or integrating the mechanical elements. The architect and structural engineer act as the architect and engineer of record on the project, respectively. There’s a legal and practical difference, though this varies by state,” says Haber.

The benefits of Delegated Design include tighter coordination with surrounding trades; fewer cost and schedule overruns; and the owner receives a smoother permitting process.

“An exterior skin is a self-contained scope of work and we’re better able to manage the process by either being responsible for the design, engineering, supply and installation of the skin under a Delegated Design scenario, or being able to work in a more collaborative environment in a Design-Assist where you’ve typically got a design consultant, structural engineer and architect,” he says.

Bridging the Gap

Technology has helped facilitate communication between subcontractors and the design team. Building information modeling (BIM) has allowed the two parties to engage and interact, says Haber.

“We can use BIM to view conflicts and see how the work integrates with the rest of the building. We also can get 3D images faster. It’s allowed for a better workflow and helps every-one to understand each other’s needs,” he says.

Haber adds that technology is conducive to designing complex facades with more elements integrated into the façade.

“Having the use of technology which allows people to use online platforms to exchange models in real time has helped us to manage our schedules and the expectations that certain clients place on us,” says Haber.

Improving the Process

While technology and evolving delivery methods have improved project efficiencies, Haber says they haven’t made it easier, cheaper or simpler for the glazing subcontractor. Instead it’s shifted the burden and opened up another layer of coordination needed, he says.

“There are things that could be done to make it easier. It starts at the ownership level. If they were to provide enough time to the design team to flesh out their ideas and to tap into the consultants’ and the industry’s expertise, it would allow them to do more experimenting before they put a set of schematic design drawings out there for everyone to bid from,” says Haber. “I definitely do not blame the architects. They’re doing the best they can. Technology, materials, building codes and the way products are used are changing so rapidly and a lot of architects don’t have the in-house expertise to know how to deal with all of these things. They need to tap into the marketplace.”

W&W tries to be a resource for architects and designers. However, Haber says it can put a burden on subcontractors to have experts, such as product specialists and engineers, available during what he calls the free-consulting phase. Typically, glazing contractors are not paid consultants and they do modeling, budgeting and design work with the hopes that it gives them a better opportunity later.

Despite the amount of work and resources that subcontracts often put in up front, Haber says it usually works out for his company and he’s happy to satisfy customers’ needs.

“We try to do the right thing and service our customers as best we can,” he says. “Everyone has to have a reasonable expectation about what is realistic and what’s possible in what timeframe.”

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