Darrel Rees

Have you ever designed a near-perfect high-performance home just to have it diminished by poor workmanship? Or had a home whose price comes in twice as high as expected when it goes out to bid? Have you ever been caught in the morass of finger-pointing with a builder when things just didn’t go right? These all-too-common experiences are the inevitable result of traditional design-bid-build (DBB) project delivery. Instead of forming a design and construction team motivated to work together, conflicting interests, diminished trust, and lack of continuity can be pervasive. As residential projects become more complex and the demand for performance increases, DBB is failing. Hidden costs, budget overruns, and numerous change orders are common, and are becoming less and less acceptable to clients.

Collaborative delivery processes have become increasingly popular over the last few years because, to put it bluntly, designing and building a high-performance home takes more than conventional design talent. Architect-led design/builds, joint ventures, and other emerging project delivery methods are beginning to gain traction with design professionals and clients alike. When DBB won’t cut it, the good news is that you’ve got options that are efficient, foster collaboration, and render effective results for the client:

1. Contractor-Led Design Build: In this most common version of design/build, the contractor holds a contract with the owner to deliver both design and construction. The builder subcontracts with the architect to provide the design. Applicable AIA Contract Document is B143–2004: Standard Form of Agreement Between Design-Builder and Architect.

2. Architect-Led Design Build: The architect holds the contract with the owner to deliver both design and construction. In 2011, only 2 percent of projects, based on cost of construction, were built this way, according to the 2012 AIA Firm Survey. Applicable AIA Contract Document is A142–2004: Standard Form of Agreement Between Design-Builder and Contractor. For contracts with owners, use A141–2004: Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Design-Builder.

3. Construction Manager Adviser: Architects can act as Construction Manager Advisers on projects they design, thereby increasing their involvement throughout construction. The owner holds the contracts with all subcontractors and the architect/CMa manages the construction as an adviser to the owner. AIA Contract Document C132–2009: Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Construction Manager as Adviser may cover this situation, but consult your professional liability insurance carrier. Be aware that taking responsibility for jobsite safety, as well as the means and methods of construction, may not be covered by a standard errors and omissions policy.

4. Joint ventures: Here architect and builder form a relational agreement that outlines roles and responsibilities, and apportions risks and rewards. Often this requires the setup of a new legal entity, which can sometimes be time-consuming and costly. AIA Contract Documents C101–1993: Joint Venture Agreement for Professional Services may be helpful. Again, consult with insurance carriers to understand your exposure to risk in any such partnership.

Collaborative project delivery methods can offer clients a simpler, more predictable approach. The key to success in these are the development of trust and the recommended practice is to partner with a builder you already know and respect. Carefully formed agreements, including those about management and decision-making processes, are also critical to delivering the best possible outcomes for you, the builder, the client, and the environment. —Rena M. Klein, FAIA

Rena M. Klein, FAIA, is an expert on small firm practice and the executive editor of AIA’s The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th edition (Wiley, 2013), from which this article was adapted.