How Single-Design Models Can Improve Productivity

Is this the right path for your next project?

Traditional construction managements usually takes one of two paths: an owner either signs a contract with an architect or engineer to develop a design and produce construction permits, or initiates a contract with a general contractor. General contractors redraw architect designs and add additional information; as the process continues, architects receive bids from other contractors and sub-contractors for the construction of the building. 

Within this two-path process, contractual obligations exist between an owner and an architect and between an owner and a general contractor. No contractual obligation exists between the architect and the general contractor, however; as the central figure in the administration of these contracts, an owner assumes all of the risk for the completion of the project. If retained by the owner, an architect becomes the construction manager and handles a variety of tasks, such as reviewing responses to RFPs, working with city management on permits, and managing and reviewing contracts with the general contractor, other contractors, and sub-contractors.

An owner can also become the construction manager by declining to retain an architect, an option which places all of the responsibilities for construction and contract management on that owner. Under this approach, an owner oversees all construction schedules and any day-to-day operations. In addition, that owner takes responsibility for any errors, code violations, problems, accounting needs, or change orders that occur.

Consider the Single-Design Method

The single-design method narrows construction management from two paths to one. Under single-design, an owner works with one internal office that develops the design while handling construction management and contract management. In one version of the single-design method, one contract is drawn up between an owner and a general contractor for the management of all construction phases and subcontractors. While a general contracting firm may include an architect, it may also outsource architectural design and review.

In another version of the single-design method, an architect works as the sole responsible party, providing design and construction management through a contractual agreement with an owner. Project planning, conceptual design, construction, and occupancy become part of that management through a single point. An architect may own a general contracting firm or may sub-contract with a general contractor.

Advantages to Single-Design 

The single-design model can significantly reduce project costs and construction and project delivery timetables. Savings result from a coordinated approach managed by a single entity. The manager of a single-design model has a better perspective about material and labor costs as well as a more accurate overall view of performance and schedules. Having a single point of contact and a sole responsible agent enhances communication and increases accountability; questions, concerns, and feedback about all aspects of a project flow to a single point-of-contact. With a single entity managing every phase of a construction project, processes become more efficient and the flexibility needed to making change orders is assured.