Delivery methods analysis and comparison

A deeper look at four major construction delivery methods

construction delivery methods at McCownGordon

Project delivery methods, or how the project will be designed, constructed and delivered, is one of the most crucial decisions made by owners who embark on construction projects. We created a delivery method analysis and comparison to help you make the right choice. This can help overcome project challenges and be tailored to best meet the unique needs of each owner and project.

Which Method Is Best for My Project?

There are several important project considerations that are directly impacted by the delivery method. These considerations include the complexity of the construction project, the availability of owner resources to help manage a project, the owner’s level of expertise with design and construction processes, necessary schedule constraints, budget and funding requirements and an owner’s risk tolerance. Four of the most often-used project delivery methods include:

Delivery Methods comparison chart
Owner (O), Architect and Engineers (A/E), General Contractor (GC), Trade Partners (TP), Construction Manager (CM), Design-Builder (DB)

Each of these project delivery methods holds a different level of risk for the owner. Generally, the level of control retained by the owner correlates with the level of risk, and those levels typically have an inverse relationship to the risk and control levels of the contractor.

None of these delivery methods are right for every project. For each situation, there will be advantages and disadvantages in the use of any specific method. The owner needs to carefully assess the project requirements, goals and potential challenges and find the delivery method that offers the best opportunity for success.

What are the Goals and Objective for the Project?

Project owners generally have the same goals when completing a project: construction at a reasonable cost, of the highest quality, and completed within the shortest period of time.

However, some goals may take precedent over others. For example, the speed of implementation may be more important than cost on certain projects. For others, maintenance and life-cycle costs may be the primary concern. Owner control of the design may be important for some, while, for others, lowest initial construction cost is paramount.

Examples of project goals and objectives to determine your delivery method
Does the Project Have Any Challenges?

When selecting the best project delivery method, rank your goals, objectives and challenges and match them to the strengths and attributes of the various project delivery methods. For example, some projects may be challenged by cash-flow restrictions or a renovation project may have ongoing operational needs during construction. The analysis is not so much a question of advantages versus disadvantages, but rather to select the delivery method with the strengths and attributes that best align with the goals and needs of the project.

Advantages and considerations for each of these four project delivery systems are summarized below. However, some of the key differences include:

  • Construction Management (CM), Design-Build (DB) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) provide overlap of design and construction, with shorter overall project durations.
  • CM, DB and IPD provide earlier start of construction, reduces impacts of escalation and project costs.
  • CM, DB and IPD shift risk from owner to contractor.
  • CM, DB and IPD can utilize early design packages.
  • CM, DB and IPD create a more collaborative environment and provide owner with additional levels of expertise.
  • CM, DB and IPD can provide owner with a guarantee on cost earlier in the process than Design-Bid-Build (DBB).
Design-bid-build advantages and considerations
Construction manager at risk advantages and considerations
Design-build advantages and considerations
Integrated project delivery advantages and considerations
Project Schedules with Each Delivery Method
Project schedule analysis and comparison with different delivery methods
The project schedule can be greatly impacted by the selected delivery method. Due to the ability to overlap design and construction activities, the DB, IPD and CMAR delivery methods can shorten the overall project schedule compared to DBB.
What are the Next Steps After the Decision is Made?

Once the selection of a delivery system is made, it is important the owner takes additional and continuing steps to maximize the chances of its success:

  • Effectively communicate to all team members (architects, engineers, CMs, contractors and consultants) the goals, objectives and issues that drove the selection of the delivery system. It is important they understand and commit to the owner’s expectations.Once the selection of a delivery system is made, it is important the owner takes additional and continuing steps to maximize the chances of its success:
  • Ensure the terms and conditions of all contracts reflect the project goals, objectives and expectations, and memorialize all related agreements. For example, if changes during construction are anticipated, be sure the contract defines how they will be managed, and their cost and schedule impact minimized.
  • Consider legal assistance experienced in construction matters for crafting contract language.
  • Commit to the appropriate level of owner involvement, e.g. active involvement with timely and informed decision-making to not delay or impact the project. Conversely, avoid imposing owner changes or controls on DB contracts.
  • Assess potential risks and plan how to manage the overall program, e.g., internally or via a program management consultant.
  • Recognize that disputes over scope, quality and other issues may still arise. Define how disputes will be handled so cost/schedule impacts are minimized.

No project delivery methods is free of challenges. But, choosing the system that best works for your specific project, and actively ensuring it is properly implemented, can highly affect the success of the project.

Our experience in each of the delivery methods shows that collaborative delivery methods (CM, DB and IPD) provide the best final product at the most optimum schedule for the best value regardless of the project type. These methods reduce the risk to the owner, reduce potential change orders, reduce project schedule overages, all while allowing each party, owner, architect and contractor, a balanced participation in the project direction.

Still not sure what delivery method to choose? Use our planning tool to figure out how we can help bring your project to life.  We’d love to learn more about your needs or upcoming project to help bring your vision to reality.

Planning Tool