A major trend in 2019 for Frank Lepori Construction is growth in design-build delivery. The Lepori team has 18 design-build projects underway, accounting for 72% of their overall volume. The Sparks based general contractor delivered 58% of projects with design-build delivery in 2018.
Design-build is popular in all types of construction. Of the 23 projects delivered design-build last year, the Lepori team worked in these sectors: hospitality, industrial, convenience store and fueling stations, commercial centers, community centers, retail, and restaurants.
“One thing our design-build clients have in common is they want pricing options for different scenarios during design,” says Frank Lepori, who leads design-build projects. “While many of our projects are for long-time clients, we are seeing new clients asking for design-build. Owners are asking for a collaboration process and alternates.”
As a comparison, traditional delivery is described as hard bid. The general contractor doesn’t work with the owner until they submit the low bid, so they won’t be on board early enough to weigh in on the design.
The advantages for having the general contractor involved during design include:
1. All design and construction team members collaborate to make a great project from the beginning.
2. The overall schedule is shorter because design and construction activities can overlap at times.
3. The general contractor and design-build subcontractors provide pricing alternatives, so an owner can choose what they value most before finalizing the design and budget.
Frank enjoys leading design-build teams that are matched to the project. “We brought Architect Bob Hooft on team for the recent remodel at Bill Pearce Courtesy Honda, because the owner wanted a dynamic showroom. Bob gave our team the style we hoped for. We bring in architects for specific types of expertise.”
Design-build delivery works well for complex remodels and tenant improvements, because it allows teams to collaborate to resolve structural and code challenges, adds Frank. “We use architects, engineers, designers and subcontractor in our design-build process. Matching the designer to the project challenge is key to successful design-build delivery.”
Advocates of design-build often say they cut delivery costs, but we see a different emphasis. “Design-build is more about increasing value than decreasing cost,” says Frank. “It’s been our experience that the spirit of collaboration is about making the project the best it can be given the budget.”
Cutting construction time is consistently a benefit of design-build delivery, adds Frank. “Our clients generally want to get started as soon as possible, so we will design and estimate the base portion of their project to get permitting underway while we are refining the design and pricing for finish elements or alternates.” In a recent example, a convenience store client contracted for the base portion of a new station, and asked the Lepori team to develop pricing for a restaurant tenant improvement after he selected the vendor.
The Lepori team had a rare opportunity recently to deliver two buildings featuring identical programming with one being hard-bid and one being design-build. The first multi-tenant building we delivered on Big Fish Drive for Outlets at Legends was hard-bid. When we took the lead as designer-builder on the nearly identical building next door, we reduced design and construction costs. The owner elected to apply cost savings to expanding their parking lot, because their focus was on increasing value rather than saving money. “The Lepori team was able to stretch our clients dollars to finish additional work,” explains Frank.
“Our owners want to maximize their construction investment, and design-build is the best tool for doing that,” he concludes. “our project leaders and crafts people also prefer design-build, because the clear project goals we develop during the design phase flow into construction, meaning we are all on the same page. When owners are happy and my team is happy, it makes for a successful win/win.”