by Jen Luoni
As we enter 2022, the supply chain uncertainly is not relenting. Some material shortages, such as steel, have been constant for some time now with no end in sight, while other shortages are popping up from week to week with no notice. The known factors like steel can be accommodated for in pre-construction although the unknowns that appear need the team to be flexible with the ability to pivot during the process.
For years, design build has always had the ability to navigate these factors typically by the client’s choice and not the driving factors of the current environment. Now more than ever, the value in design build is pushing to the forefront. Below are just two examples of how design build is best suited for the times we live in and how to counter the instability of a volatile supply chain.
Accommodating to the Known: Steel
The current market has steel arriving 3-4 months later than it did just two years ago, prior to COVID. The old timelines worked well with the traditional process of bid build; the timeline allowed for plans to be completed before steel was released. Now, using that process, the start of construction can be pushed off months waiting for the steel to arrive. Prepping the site for the steel to arrive does not take nearly as long as the delay for the steel so it is not practical to begin construction.
An inherent ability of design build has always been to accelerate traditional pre-construction and construction timelines. The only way to accelerate any schedule is to identify a project cost and design very early on and be confident in this identification. Design build has this unique ability due to years of experience in collaboration and partnerships with engineering consultants and subcontractors. The confidence in these partnerships allows for us to assume the risk of a cost associated with a design before drawings are completed. In turn, this allows for a very early release of steel so the lead time for the steel is absorbed in the pre-construction effort and the construction timeline can hold firm.
Accommodating to the Unknown: Lab Furniture
Steel has been a known factor for some time now but on a recent lab project under construction the owner provided lab furniture that normally had an 8–12 week lead time and fit right into the schedule. Virtually overnight the lead time jumped 28-32 weeks. Lab furniture including benches and work surfaces are a key component to the occupancy and operation of any lab project. When we got word of the delay and how it did not fit into the timeline, we were quickly able to pivot and get lab millwork custom fabricated.
Using our in-house abilities and partnerships we were able to set parameters for the millwork, obtain lead times on materials and a price quickly so that the client could make a timely decision to proceed. With an accelerated approval the millwork subcontractor was able to take the concepts directly into shop drawings to be able to secure materials and begin fabrication.
Uncertainty was removed and construction was able to thrive despite constant supply chain shortcomings. When the architect and builder have the same investment in the project, the power of the two entities can navigate any issues that arise. Partnerships in design build expand to both engineers and subcontractors and these partnerships allow for solution-based design and construction.
In a market where both the supply chain issues and construction are not relenting, design build offers solutions to counter these opposing factors.
Jen Luoni is director of operations – architecture at Dacon Corporation.