Your guide to project delivery methods in construction

mccowngordon constuction employees collaborating

When it comes to your project, it’s not simply about the outcome—how you get there is just as important. Choosing the right path will not only guide you through the process, it will also drive your project toward success. 

Before you dive into your new construction plan, it’s important to explore which project delivery method will work best for you. However, understanding the different methods proves to not always be an easy feat, especially if this is your first go-round. Fortunately, our team at McCownGordon Construction have all the answers you need.

To jumpstart your research, we’ve created an in-depth guide to construction project delivery methods, but at the end of the day, we are always here to help you decide which plan will promote the best outcome you’re looking for. 

Read on to learn about each method, which projects they work best for, and how each will impact the people involved. 

Delivery Methods Comparison and Analysis →

Why are project delivery methods important?

Project delivery methods are important because they consider the factors that contribute to your project’s success. These factors include: 

  • Budget and funding requirements
  • Owner expertise 
  • Time and schedule constraints
  • Project complexity
  • Resource availability 

When a delivery method complements and fills in holes left from those factors, you reach the optimal process for your construction project. The goal is to maximize your budget, reduce risk for all parties involved, overcome potential problems and meet the owner’s needs. 

With that in mind, let’s go through the common project delivery methods you can choose from. 

Design-bid-build (DBB)

Two big questions you should ask when considering design-bid-build are: “how complex is my project?” and “how much collaboration do I require?” If your project is less complex without the need for much collaboration, then this project delivery method could work for you. 

In this case, the owner hires an architect to create a design, and then puts that design out for bid. From there, construction contractors evaluate the design and offer a price. Most of the time owners are looking more for the cheapest option, not necessarily a company with the most expertise. Once the owner chooses a bid he or she likes, construction begins. As a result, the design process is completely separate from the construction process.

Benefits:

  • A traditional means to an end
  • Puts the owner in control
  • Each associated party has their own contract
  • Able to choose the lowest price

Drawbacks:

  • Expenses could arise if there are unforeseen construction issues
  • If bids are out of budget, the process has to restart
  • May not get the highest quality contractor if based on price alone
  • Does not promote a collaborative environment

The final takeaway

The design-bid-build method typically works for simpler projects under an owner who has a strong grasp of the design and construction process. Some construction projects that are straightforward may benefit from a more price-based method. 

Keep in mind that since architects/engineers won’t be in contact with the construction team, the owner will be in charge of bridging that gap. Also the process may take longer, because construction plans and design can’t simultaneously work hand-in-hand. 

Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)

If you’re an owner looking for a more collaborative approach that leverages construction expertise, the construction manager at risk project delivery method could be a good option. In this case, an owner hires a construction manager (CM) who acts as consultant throughout the design and construction process. The CM also works within a guaranteed maximum price (GMP), so even when changes arise, they are often resolved within the established price. 

The CM gives the owner insight and advice on budget, cost estimating, scheduling, and design. As a result, the owner has a better understanding of the project timeline and why the CM chooses certain subcontractors. 

Keep in mind that it’s the owner’s responsibility to choose a CM that will help guide them toward the right direction. This means, owners must consider a CM’s experience. If you’re an owner, the goal is to find a manager who has a large portfolio of projects that match your project. You don’t want to choose someone who is playing the guessing game. That could lead to more risks, mistakes, and increase the project timeline. 

Benefits:

  • Owner gains helps from someone with more expertise
  • Creates a collaborative culture from start to finish
  • Construction may overlap with design, which may cut down the timeline
  • Owner can choose CM based on price and qualification 

Drawbacks: 

  • You may have to go through multiple design options
  • Design changes after construction starts are the owner’s responsibility
  • May be hard to know if the established maximum price is reasonable for the project

The final takeaway

If you have a project with a large undefined scope, crave more collaboration throughout the process or want to have an idea of the cost before design is complete, seeking the help of a CM could greatly help you navigate through the process. Plus, if you have timeline constraints, the CMAR can provide the focus you and your team need to get the work done faster. 

The CMs also hold the contracts for any trade partners that they bring in. This project delivery method allows for more collabatoration than the design-bid-build method, but collaboration is dependent on how well the CM communicates.

Design-Build (DB)

The design-build delivery method reduces the number of owner contracts, meaning the owner hires a DB entity to do both the design and oversee construction. Since design, engineering, and construction are under the same contract, it allows more flexibility within the process and a greater collaborative environment. 

Most of the time, a DB method will include more than one company, especially if trade partners become involved. This is another project delivery method that can work well around a tight schedule. By starting construction before design is complete, this method can shorten the overall project duration (this is also true for CMAR and IPD). 

Benefits:

  • Owner has greater control over maximum price
  • Since the process is more collaborative, there are typically less cost changes
  • Risk transfers from owner to DB entity
  • Reduces the occurrence of design changes after construction 

Drawbacks:

  • Certain regulations will stop some projects from implementing this method such as Kansas K-12 projects. 
  • There may be conflicting interests as both designer and contractor

The final takeaway 

DB may not be for everyone, but it does open the door for the owner to relieve some risk associated with the project. With collaboration, the design-build delivery method can help reduce the occurrence of mistakes and conflicts that could deter an on-time completion. 

Keep in mind that even though a DB entity can become involved earlier on, you still want to have clear goals so that your DB can drive your project to meet those goals. 

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)

Integrated Project Delivery is one of the most collaborative project delivery methods. All parties—owners, construction managers, architects and engineers, and major trade partners—enter into a joint contract. That means the risks and even potential costs savings are spread evenly, relieving the owner of some responsibility. As a result, the process is more open, transparent and allows for greater creativity because everyone benefits equally.

Benefits:

  • Creates a collaborative culture from start to finish
  • Can work for complex and unique builds 
  • Allows for equal rewards and risks

Drawbacks: 

  • Requires patience between team members and extreme expertise
  • Contracts can be more difficult to handle and less straightforward
  • Must have a more comprehensive and well thought out contract
  • Requires more flexibility, and there may be more plan changes

The final takeaway

Although we mentioned IPD works great for complex projects, simpler projects can benefit from a more collaborative experience as well. This project delivery method does depend on having a strong team who is willing to work for the greater good. Each aspect of the project must merge perfectly for the project to have the best results. That means communication and engagement is key the moment the project begins. 

What to look for when hiring a construction manager for your IPD project.

How to know which project delivery method works best for a project

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

The first factor you want to consider are constraints you have before design begins. Meaning, are there rules and regulations that stop you from implementing a certain method? You’ll also want to have a clear understanding of the end goal. How much risk does the owner want to take on? How much time does the owner have to manage everything? Do you know exactly what you want or would you benefit from a collaborative team to help you define that? 

Remember, all methods come with their own set of challenges, regardless of which one you choose. 

At McCownGordon, we highly recommend that owners speak with one of our experts to understand which delivery method could benefit them most. We can also help you understand the regulations surrounding your project that could limit your choice. At the end of the day, we want you to have the best construction experience at the best value. 

We build using a variety of project delivery methods with your goals in mind, and we work hard to understand why you want to build a structure to guide you on the right path.

Learn more about project delivery methods at McCownGordon Construction

At McCownGordon, our team of builders and engineers maintain a customer-focused mentality, allowing us to outperform even your highest expectations. Dedicated to promoting integrity, performance and relationships, it’s our people and values that truly make the difference. 

Our customers aren’t simply another project; they’re an extension of our team and community. Together, we don’t just build—we bring creative visions to life. From first thought to final nail, we deliver quality work to ensure our builds stand above the rest. 

We have three regional offices around the Midwest—Kansas City, Manhattan and Wichita. Call us at 888-304-4929 or use our free online quote tool to start building today. 

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