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CONSTRUCTION delivery systems.

Within design-build, there are different models. One of these models is contractor-led design-build (CLDB), also called builder-led design-build, in which the general contractor manages the project. CLDB accounts for most design-build projects. Recently, the architect-led design-build (ALDB) model, also termed designer-led design-build, has grown. In ALDB, the architect is responsible for delivery of the building. A 2005 survey cited by Architectural Record magazine found that 55 percent of design-build projects were headed by a contractor, 26 percent by an integrated firm with both design and construction expertise in house, and 11 percent by designers. 

A third design-build school of thought contends it does not matter which specialty holds the primary contract for the project; either can do just as well. Project-led design-build, in which the project team consists of a cohesive unit of all the job’s disciplines, always puts the project’s best interests first.  

While design-build has compelling data on speed and cost, construction experts say that it also has disadvantages. The design-builder’s very incentive to reduce speed and cost can impact quality and put the owner at the mercy of the contractor, who may or may not act with integrity and expertise. Also, because the architect works for the design-builder rather than for the owner, the architect does not represent the owner’s best interests. (In DBB, the architect does work for the owner and therefore represents their best interests.) Moreover, because there are so many unknowns about the future of a building at the beginning of a D-B project, owners must define more of the project’s requirements, objectives, and materials before soliciting bids. 

With no construction documents yet to work from, design-builders also assume risk in cost estimating because the scope of work is not well defined. Contracts on design-build projects can address how to handle unexpected developments without financial penalty to either the owner or the designer-builder. 

Construction manager at risk (CMAR), also called construction management at riskCM at riskCM@R, construction manager/general contractor, and CM/GC project delivery, is another alternative to traditional design-bid-build and has a track record for reducing cost. 

Like design-bid-build, in the CMAR method, different firms handle design and construction. Unlike design-bid-build, however, the construction manager joins the project at the start before the architect designs the building; the construction manager may even help choose the architect. The CM and the architect work together during the design phase. The construction manager acts as a consultant to the owner during the design and construction phase and often handles some of the construction itself.

The construction manager transitions to a general contractor when construction begins. You use this method primarily for complex projects and choose the construction manager on the basis of expertise and qualifications, not lowest price.

The construction manager’s bid to the owner is a guaranteed maximum price (GMP)representing the total of pre-construction services, actual construction, and the construction manager’s fee and contingencies. According to an article by Tommy Brennan, Business Development Manager for Ulliman Schutte Construction, most CMAR projects require the contractor to provide the GMP when the design phase is 60 to 90 percent complete.