Recently, I had an opportunity to discuss one of our D-B projects at the Design Build Institute of America's health care conference in Connecticut. I have been active in the D-B process since the mid-1980s, when I migrated from a traditional consulting engineer role to a single-source approach to the building infrastructure industry. Although I am a proponent of D-B, it is a project delivery method with a shadow cast over it from years of misuse. As a result, I intentionally avoid advocating the approach by name, instead using the term "teamwork." I believe in D-B for the partnership, the application and maximization of each participant's best skills, the ownership, and the win-win-win results. No other project delivery method draws upon these attributes, so let's assess each of their benefits.

Partnership. D-B embraces this "coming together" of a team; although it may have a quarterback to facilitate the process, it is still a team effort. For several years, the term has been a misunderstood and often misapplied concept by companies that truly didn't understand the process. Even today, I see companies market D-B services, but the single-source contract is between them and the owner. All the D-B firm's participants (trade contractors and consultants) continue to provide their services in a design-bid-build (D-B-B) format. Sure some of these trade contractors and consultants are preferred vendors of the D-B firm, but they are not partners. In a true D-B project, there is a team effort, with more interaction between those trade contractors, consultants, and the owner and not simply interaction between the D-B firm and their client. More participation inherently equates to more ownership.

Maximization of each participant's best skills. I like to say, "If I can design the perfect pipe distribution system, then I'm sure there is someone who can install the perfect pipe distribution system." What I mean by that is that you don't want me installing this system. My best skill/contribution to the process is a value-engineered system based on years of design experience and awareness of first cost and life-cycle cost. So, if I bring this kind of experience to the project, I believe there is a pipe fitter out there that can take my design and apply his years of experience and make it better. Without going into a whole series of past D-B success stories, I can say that much of my D-B success has been through my partnership with some very talented trades professionals. With the D-B process, all the partners contribute by maximizing what they do best, contributing their best skills expertise. The byproduct of this process equates to more ownership.

Ownership. Here is a characteristic that is lacking in many D-B-B-building programs. Ownership is inherent with D-B because the D-B team is promising a project that works for a specific cost and is completed within a specific timeline. It is not inherent in the other methods of design and construction, although there are those who do take ownership for their work in other methods of project delivery. Even in my days of D-B-B, I would call a client on a really cold and really hot day to see how the HVAC system I designed was working. Some would say to me, "Why are you doing this? The project is closed out!" Why look for problems? I still make those calls because I believe I have an obligation to the person who hired me to do the work. It's how I always want to be treated. For others, it's easy to pass this commitment off to someone else. He did his part for the fee. There wasn't anything in the consultant or contractor's contract to indicate an ongoing commitment. With D-B, ownership is that decisionmaking process based on team consensus and commitment to the job performing as de-signed.

Win-win-win results. On how many D-B-B jobs can all participants - owner, builder, consultant - say that they each won on the project? I'd venture to guess that maybe two out of three might claim they did OK, but you won't get all three. The D-B-B is not built on a single-source responsibility philosophy. It is more of a relay race analogy, where the design team passes the baton to the builder, who then passes the baton on to the owner. At the end of the race comes the fingerpointing as to who didn't run their best race and/or who didn't pass the baton efficiently, and whose fault it was that they didn't win. The D-B-B relay team is built on individual efforts and not on consensus. With the D-B team focused on staying within budget, completing the work on time, and having it work, it is a rewarding experience for all partners.

The D-B process is a much misunderstood project delivery process. It doesn't have to be. When the partnership maximizes each participant's best skills, and establishes ownership, and then everyone wins. Want to learn more about D-B? Check out the Design Build Institute of America at ES