In my day-to-day interaction with owners and industry colleagues, one of the most common questions asked over the years about design-build delivery has been… “What are the key success factors for a design-build (DB) or construction management at-risk (CMAR) project?”
Is it a schedule-focused approach, or is it driven by technical innovation? What about project costs: Should capital cost considerations drive project decisions, or are operations and maintenance costs better indicators of success?
The Simple Answer
The simple answer, from my perspective, is yes, yes, yes, and yes. But overall, I believe that the best answer is found when we better understand to what degree each of these attributes impact an owner’s perception of the project drivers that lead to success.
In nearly 30 years of project delivery experience, rarely have I found two projects that are exactly the same when it comes to project drivers. While they often share similar characteristics, many of the project drivers rank higher than others, depending upon the owner’s preferences. Many of my industry colleagues often find my response unusual when I say that design-build, CMAR and other collaborative project delivery (CPD) models as defined by the Water Design–Build Council are not always the best fit for every project.
Understanding Critical Factors
The reason is that influencing the answer to a successful project is the owner’s identified project drivers, together with the attributes that define the need for the project in the first place. Many of those factors, are outlined in Chapter 2 of the WDBC’s Municipal Water and Wastewater Design-Build Handbook, 3rd Edition, which include: Reliability, operational flexibility, single point of accountability, schedule, innovation, costs, owner involvement, risk allocation and others.
I have also found that most projects typically involve more than one major driver, and that the ultimate delivery model is the one that most suits the combined and weighted needs established by those key project drivers. However, the single most important factor to a successful project is selecting the right delivery method – which is accomplished by evaluating the project drivers in a scored evaluation approach as outlined in WDBC’s manual.
Read WDBC’s Municipal Water and Wastewater Design-Build Handbook
I highly recommend that any owner, owner’s engineer, or other party that influences project delivery decisions read the above referenced manual thoroughly, with special emphasis on Chapter 2. The beauty of a CPD model is the flexibility that can be molded to take on the characteristics necessary to address key success factors as defined by the owner. A critical factor to a successful project is the communication and collaboration that occurs between key decision makers and stakeholders to determine the true project drivers prior to determination of the delivery model. Once the compass is pointed in the right direction, the road map to a success is much clearer.