This is the third part in a four-part discussion about an upcoming design-build (D-B) case study. Last month we highlighted the D-B firm’s facility assessment strategy to produce a layperson’s interpretation of existing conditions, what was needed to reinvest in this historical building in New England, and how to present the report to the Building and Maintenance (B&M) committee. This month I’m going to address the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) and final engineering documents.

Less Paperwork

When it comes to providing a GMP, I often explain to people that you don’t need to have completed construction drawings to provide one. Anyone who is experienced in the D-B business recognizes that the GMP is based on a comprehensive cost estimate that is directly tied to a detailed scope of work. Unlike the antiquated design-bid-build (plan & spec) and construction management (CM) processes, D-B doesn’t require stacks of drawings and two or three volumes of contract specifications to create a menu-of-needs. In differentiating D-B from the other two methods of building construction, I point out that the other two require a lot of paperwork before an estimator is ready and willing to provide the GMP. If the customer stepped back and looked at what the estimator had done, they would realize that the estimator had taken everything that is put on the drawings and in the specifications and converted it into a detailed quantity takeoff. Unfortunately, a lot of effort goes into the production of construction documents and the customer will just now receive a GMP. If the GMP is more than what the customer had budgeted, the building process comes to a halt while the construction manager “value-engineers” out pertinent pieces of the building program.

The Earlier the Better

The D-B firm will require a far smaller set of documents to produce the same detailed takeoff of equipment, materials, and subcontractors. At the same time, the GMP comes in early enough that time is not as pressing an issue and more time can be spend to assessing the tradeoffs through a more practical value-engineering process. I believe the difference in the estimating procedures is that the D-B estimation is a team effort where the building process “vision” is incorporated in the estimate sheets. The D-B firm will still produce the detailed estimate with quantities but does so without “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.” Some estimators can’t do this, while others are extremely proficient at seeing the big picture and putting it on paper. For Project X, the D-B firm focused on the “big picture.”

With the summer of 2000 fast approaching, the B&M committee accelerated the D-B process by approving the initial facility assessment budget of $2 million so that final engineering could be completed and necessary agency approvals made. In addition, a “window-of-opportunity” would be required to pre-purchase long lead items so that the summer closing of the building would not be hampered by equipment not being on-site when needed. Another integral part of the GMP and the accelerated construction schedule would be to partner with the most knowledgeable hvac and electrical contractors for this building.

In each case, the contractor was already familiar with the infrastructure, so final engineering included working closely with these two companies to expedite a mutually agreed upon D-B solution and to stay within the facility assessment initial budget. With this building being in a historical section of the community, it was imperative that proper documentation be submitted for approval relative to aesthetic impact on the building and the area. Final engineering provided the necessary drawings to receive proper approval by the historical community, as well as the traditional regulatory agency compliance.

On Budget

In finishing out this discussion on creating a GMP, the D-B partnership provided assurance that the initial facility budget was met. Analogous to shopping for an automobile, the shopper knows the price range that they want to stay within. No one looking to buy a $20,000 car would ever waste their time inquiring about $35,000 automobiles. The same concept applied on Project X. The team was looking to produce a quality product for $2 million or less. Using an “open book” philosophy, the D-B firm was able to make the GMP fit and complete final engineering documents that wouldn’t require additional value engineering.