Although I’m in danger of teaching grannies to suck eggs here, please bear with me… Design & Build (D&B) is a project delivery system used by the construction and related industries to deliver projects in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design & build contractor.
D&B relies on a single point of responsibility and is used to minimise risk and reduce delivery schedules by overlapping the design and construction phases of a project.
Arguably, D&B offers the most attractive contractual option for the client because the D&B contractor will be responsible for all work on a given project regardless of the nature of any subsequent fault.
So, how do you view design & build?
Is it an opportunity to accept new technologies that may lie outwith historic and out-dated specification methods?
Is it an opportunity to purely reduce project costs, potentially compromising quality or durability?
In reality, it should be seen as one thing – an opportunity: an opportunity for innovation to break loose from the shackles of tradition.
In the eighties, nineties and early-noughties, sub-contractors would see huge, paper-laden enquiry documents being pushed through the letter box containing an opportunity of future business but received with an air of trepidation: “Have we really got to read all that?”, and: “If we don’t read all that, there will probably be something in there that will catch us out”. That was the unfortunate reality of those voluminous tomes.
During the mid-noughties, the words ‘design & build’ became more common and enquiry documents changed in favour of statements such as ‘design life expectancy’ and ‘fit for purpose’.
In simple terms, whilst material specifications were still present, people were opening their eyes to alternative technologies.
Customers were asking questions from which many a good idea evolved. The comfort of familiarity in a specification was gone and it was time for more innovative technologies to challenge and set new standards.
Cast your mind back and think of technologies that were relevant 50-60 years ago that are still being used today. The wheel springs to mind but not much else!
In our view, the principle of the design and build initiative is to deliver a proven quality product that fully meets the specification standards. Safety, security of liabilities, a fully qualified design and transparent quality principles must also be included in the mix.
In other words, whatever is being proposed under the umbrella statement has to be totally secure.
This is where, for Balmoral Tanks, design and build becomes interesting.
This is the time that companies at the higher end of the supply chain should rely on the expertise of those involved in the process so that they can enjoy the benefits of that knowledge.
No more, “Well, this is how we have always done it”. Now it’s time for, “They are the experts; give them ownership and responsibility”. In recent years, examples of this type of thinking have become available for examination.
Some companies that have enjoyed the benefit of security through specification may preach that change is a bad thing. They may waste their efforts trawling the archives for a reason not to buy from other suppliers.
Let’s be honest – any manufacturer who says they have never had a product issue is probably stretching the truth. We have all had product issues, things have gone wrong, and this should not be used as an opportunity to berate AN Other Ltd.
Remember, any given issue could be an issue to all related companies as the universal, often negative, assumptions filter through. So be responsible for your own product destiny but include your competitors in that journey. Don’t jump on other people’s problems as they could very soon be your problem too.
Instead, view challenge as a positive thing. If you, as a supplier, are perhaps losing your market leading position, ask yourself what you need to do to get back to that level? These challenges, for us, are the greatest outcomes of the design and build era.
It has removed the rigidity of using an archaic specification and given responsibility back to the supply chain by asking how it can deliver efficiencies whilst maintaining, if not exceeding, the performance criteria.
So, what’s next?
Design & build is an evolving initiative. One thing we are seeing is true, early engagement within a project to ensure, purely from a storage tank viewpoint, the right things are being considered and accounted for at the beginning of the cycle.
The potential savings on projects of a certain scale have reached well over six-figure sums, something that certainly focuses the mind.
No more waiting for War and Peace to thump onto the doormat or hit the email inbox. Through years of diligent effort in educating the industry on alternative solutions, we are finding clients are now far more prepared to look, listen and learn to what they actually need rather than what history tells them they should have.
The ‘dare to be different’ design & build catalyst brings rewards to the table in more ways than one.
Jonathan Smith is sales director at Balmoral Tanks in Aberdeen.