A common question we hear is, “Can I use local contractors in a design-build project?” The short answer is, “Yes, you can.” However, there are advantages and disadvantages to be considered.
What Are the Advantages?
Typical advantages to using local contractors on your design-build project include: dedication to the customer, keeping dollars in the local economy, established relationships with the owner, project and institutional knowledge, familiarity with local conditions, and an understanding of local labor markets. Local contractors that leverage these benefits are able to put forth innovative ideas to contribute to the team, while also helping to deliver a high quality project for the owner.
What Are the Disadvantages?
The primary disadvantage of working with local contractors on a design-build project is you’re engaging a work force that is less qualified and with fewer resources at their disposal, resulting in higher cost and lower quality. In addition, a design-builder and contractor relationship that is not well established creates an internal learning curve. Local contractors who have long-standing client relationships and circumvent the design-builder’s communication protocol also create miscommunication and accountability issues.
Overall, there is a strategic advantage to using local contractors who have the skills, qualifications, and experience to do the job. Tangible benefits include lower project cost, local job creation, and stimulation to the local economy. As a design-builder, developing those local relationships early on is a strategic advantage to developing a collaborative team for future endeavors.
Supporting the education process of the local contractor base in the best practices of design-build delivery methods is one of the first steps. For instance, you could host a “brown-bag lunch” to review the various delivery methods, procurement and collaborative team development, and answer questions – a win-win for all.