To compete in the design-build (D-B) industry, it is imperative that the participants focus on doing things dramatically different rather than how things have traditionally been done in the design-bid-build environment. The same can be said for the pitfalls of construction management. "Thinking outside the box" is a term frequently used by so many industries and businesses. At the same time, this terminology and concept is pertinent and important to D-B and certainly describes what D-B is all about.

Why is this concept so important to the D-B industry? Because the D-B firms approach the engineering and construction business in a unique and practical manner and do so by not following a traditional thought process. D-B is teamwork where consensus rules.

Tradition Flies Out the Window

The traditional and antiquated approach to development of construction documents is to produce them in what I consider to be a vacuum, where the designers work closely together but without construction expertise. Even in construction management, seldom does the construction team get the opportunity to proactively contribute to the design documents. Once the documents are completed, competitive bids are solicited and the winning contractor is the one with the lowest price but not necessarily the "best price."

For the D-B team, it is very important that the designers work closely with the buildings. In addition, it is equally important but not yet common to have a facility engineer on the team for added value. This "coming together" offers each of the team members an opportunity to think outside his/her comfort level/box.

How does this process work? To start with, the D-B scope of work has many milestones to reach. Several of these can be considered parameters or restrictions such as the construction budget. Unlike other design and construction approaches, D-B can put a limit on how much an owner wants to spend. Think about it. If you can go out and purchase a new automobile (also a D-B product) within your budget, why can't a building be built or renovated with the same approach? A person can buy a D-B vehicle with all the "bells and whistles" such as air-conditioning, CD and cassette player, etc., for a certain budget, so why can't the same be achieved within a building program?

It's Thinking Creatively

This is where "thinking outside the box" plays an important roll in D-B. It has been my experience that developing the scope based on parameters and performance criteria, and doing so with the entire D-B team present, is the best use of everyone's time and energy. Brainstorming the project together will bring all the resources to "the table" at one time. Without spending an exorbitant amount of time and money working in a "designer vacuum," this process allows the best of both worlds: design and installation.

For example, if you are the best at sizing pipe, who is better qualified to offer cost-effective methods of installing this pipe? Is it you with your years of design experience or someone with as many years as you but in the construction side of the business? Just think what you can learn from a pipe fitter, project foreman, superintendent, or construction project manager. All you have to do is step outside your box.

The same can be said for the designer and the pipe fitter working together to layout a pipe distribution system. I recall one instance when our design engineer and the pipe fitter came up with a very innovative approach to installing welded pipe high overhead in a factory environment. Instead of disrupting the occupants by setting up shop within the building and welding the pipe in place, the D-B duo decided to set up the welding station on a mezzanine roof. From there, the pipe was welded outdoors and slid into place through an upper level window and then onto roll hangers waiting for the pipe to be horizontally passed through the building. Little of the occupied space was impacted or disrupted by work crews, sparks flying from the welding process, and/or portable lifts. The solution was an out-of-box experience!

In this complicated industry that we work in, thinking outside the box through teamwork is probably the cornerstone to the D-B industry. It is also the process that allows experienced professionals to continue to learn from other experienced professionals. ES