Project Delivery Method: What is it?
Project Delivery is the method chosen for the design and construction of your building project. There are over a dozen project delivery methods in common use, and more to come with the advent of true BIM. Fortunately all the methods fall into two main categories - design-bid-build and fast track. (See Part 1.) All the other variations amount to different contracting methods for providing one of these two styles of project delivery. (See Part 2.) It is important to resolve the Project Delivery Method early in the process, because you cannot easily change methods because of existing contracts, fees and relationships.
Two Additional Wrinkles
Any of these methods can be further complicated by 'Multiple Primes' and 'Work By Owner'.
Multiple Primes means that several contractors work directly for the Owner instead of just the General Contractor. Multiple Primes will affect the development of the construction documents and the amount of work required of the architect during construction.
Work By Owner is similar. The 'Work By Owner' may be work that the Owner will perform with his own employees or a separately contracted entity. If this work will happen simultaneously with the other construction, there will be coordination issues for the contractor and perhaps coordination with the design work as well. A couple of examples are security and wiring, graphic design and signage, or perhaps interior design and furnishings.
One Last Option - 'Bridging'
Bridging is a hybrid method invented by Heery and Heery, an Atlanta architectural firm. Bridging maintains many of the best features of the various project delivery methods. Here is how it works. The Architect develops a sophisticated preliminary design based on the Owner's needs and budget. The focus of the design is the Owner's core needs, what is important to the Owner. This design forms the basis for bidding the project to several Design/Build firms, who are urged to use their creativity in delivering a solution to the preliminary design. The Architect assists the Owner in awarding the design/build contract and remains in a consulting role through the final design and construction. The benefits are that the Owner has someone on his team throughout the process, the Architect; and he has one point of responsibility for the final product, the Design/Builder.
Which method is the best? I am partial to Design-Bid-Build (no surprise) with a contractor hand-selected to provide the work on a cost-plus fee basis. If any part of the project goes over budget, you can work with the contractor to re-design and re-bid. If you have an adequate number of alternate bids up front, which is one of my favorite tactics for bringing a project in on budget, the 're-design and re-bid' actually amounts to just adding the features you can afford from the alternate bids that have been obtained.
My next choice is Bridging if the circumstances are right. Bridging works particularly well for a project that is out of town. We have experienced just about every type of Project Delivery. With the right contractor, construction manager or design/builder and with complete and competent design documents any method works well.