• Free for qualified executives and consultants to industry

  • Receive quarterly issues of Area Development Magazine and special market report and directory issues


Design-Build Firms Add Value to the Location Decision Process

With the aid of advanced technology, design-build firms provide valuable capabilities and expertise in the site selection process, reducing risk and providing cost and scheduling certainty.

Q3 2019
3D fabrication coordination models are accessible via the cloud by all teams.
3D fabrication coordination models are accessible via the cloud by all teams.
Design-build firms manage both the design and building components for construction projects of all kinds. And yet companies routinely turn to design-build firms only after one of the most critical phases of a major construction project is already complete — site selection. As a result, design-build firms sometimes arrive onto a project only to discover the existence of preventable challenges that they could have helped resolve earlier and at much less of a cost to their clients, says Mark Da Gama Rose, virtual design and construction director for Clayco, a full-service, turnkey real estate, architecture, engineering, design-build, and construction firm with clients across North America.

“The key thing is that you can’t get time back – once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Da Gama Rose notes. “There’s a lot of important work we can do at the beginning of a project that can save valuable time and money later on.”

Da Gama Rose says design-builders are more equipped than ever to help shepherd site selectors and location consultants through the site selection process and ensure every key detail is considered when deciding upon a location for a new facility. Aided by an abundance of advanced technological tools, design-build firms can serve as essential partners to new construction projects from the outset, providing critical input to the site selection decision and putting the elements in place to properly prepare sites for an efficient construction process.

Alex DeMartini, a project executive for Clayco, says a design-build firm can serve as a central source of truth during site selection and ease pressure on companies, giving them confidence that they are making a fully informed and optimum site choice.

“It’s just a better way of site selection,” DeMartini explains. “It leads to better facilities and a better value for companies.”

A Strong Partner From the Start
DeMartini says those looking to open new sites sometimes treat the process of siting and constructing a building as though they are purchasing a car. However, he says, the process requires a more customized approach from the beginning.

“We like to tell people that the earlier we can do the constructability analysis the better,” DeMartini says. “Sometimes we get a customer who comes to us and says they’ve already picked their site, and then we have to be the bearer of bad news that their site has construction issues or permitting issues or utility issues that weren’t exposed before. Whereas if we’d been involved earlier, and we had two or three sites to compare for them, then we could have raised those issues and helped them take a different view of their potential sites and get ahead of any issues.”

The involvement of a design-build firm early in the process can reduce risks for those with building projects and give them increased cost certainty and a clear schedule, DeMartini says.

Design-build firms also can help with site selection decision-making “beyond the walls” of the facility itself, analyzing not just the site, but the context and broader landscape of the site, explains Ron Jones, senior principal at Lamar Johnson Collaborative, a full-service design and architecture firm that is part of Clayco. That means investigating the strengths and weaknesses of a location in components such as logistics capabilities and the local workforce. “The availability of workers is a huge part of site selection,” Jones says.

According to Jones, Clayco emphasizes collaboration and transparency from the outset in its projects to make sure voices are heard and perspectives are considered before major decisions get made. “We get constructability input from the construction group and operations/maintenance input from stakeholders, then the architects and engineers can better communicate their ideas,” says Jones. “It’s really important that most of these discussions and decisions are made early, while it’s still just electronic bytes in a model before you get into the field and you’re actually building things that might need to be moved because the right decisions weren’t made early on.”

Establishing project milestones and objectives in the initial stages of site selection can set the tone for an entire project, he says, targeting critical areas such as permitting, design, procurement strategy, and construction execution.

“That’s absolutely key with all of our clients,” Jones adds. “They need to know very early on what that facility is going to cost, and they need to have some level of confidence that cost isn’t going to change dramatically as the project progresses. So it’s critical to make those decisions early.”

DeMartini explains that the early involvement of a design-builder creates the certainty that clients crave: “They’re going to get a good working budget for the project and a specific schedule, and that really ticks a lot of boxes for folks.”

Digital collaboration allows models to be kept securely on the cloud and shared in real-time.
Digital collaboration allows models to be kept securely on the cloud and shared in real-time.
A Tech-Enabled Approach
Advanced technology is central to the capability of a design-build firm to smooth the road for both the site selection and construction processes. Technology can help uncover issues that traditional methods cannot identify, while integrating teams in a smart construction workflow, and sharpening transparency and collaboration. It is through technology, notes Da Gama Rose, that a design-build firm can help integrate advanced design programs and practices with early procurement and set up of construction activities, thereby shortening schedules and accelerating speed to market.

Some of the advanced technology Clayco uses as part of its smart construction workflow includes drones, 3D earth work, 4D design capabilities, renderings and lean scheduling, augmented reality/reality capture for team collaboration, and estimates and initial budgets using cloud-based platforms.

The use of technology once carried with it the risk of communication problems and challenges integrating data from different platforms, but “now it’s very seamless,” says Jones. The translation of information across platforms happens quickly and efficiently. Technology also makes complex information easier to comprehend.

“For instance, we start very early with 3D representations of facilities and designs that help stakeholders, who aren’t accustomed to looking at traditional construction drawings, understand what they’re looking at,” Jones explains. “Getting that type of view of a project helps the entire team.”

The cloud has simplified the sharing of information within the disparate teams — including clients and subcontractors — involved in major construction projects. Through the use of cloud-based technology, internal and external systems can be integrated and then made available to anyone who needs to access the information.

“With cloud tools, you can share with the owner, with the design team, with anyone; they can be in a different location — it doesn’t matter,” Da Gama Rose says. “People don’t need to have heavy computers to open models. A lot of it is web-based and you can just open it on an iPad. There’s such a big difference in how you consume information — how you are able to merge and overlay things. It’s very powerful when you can take a daily drone flight and overlay it with how existing conditions are laid out or how new utilities are being placed and then make it accessible to anyone.”

It is through technology that a design-build firm can help integrate advanced design programs and practices with early procurement and set up of construction activities, thereby shortening schedules and accelerating speed to market. The “Art and Science” of Building
Clayco characterizes its design-build work as encompassing both the “art and science” of building. In addition to the precision and sophistication of its tech-enabled study and analysis, the firm takes pride in bringing creativity to the inevitable challenges that arise with individual projects in areas such as site and building requirements, and value engineering.

“We are problem-solvers for our clients,” says DeMartini. “Sometimes they see things as a negative that we know we can make a positive.”

Clayco’s attention to the art and science of building relates to its desire to focus on how a facility will perform for a client over its lifespan: “It’s not just necessarily about making widgets — there are people who spend their entire careers inside these facilities,” Jones says. “It’s also about how pleasant a place is in which to work; how efficient is it for helping people get their jobs done. That soft aspect of the facility is — at the end of the day — as important as the functionality of being able to turn out X number of pounds of product a year. It takes creativity and an understanding of our client’s business to make sure that’s part of a project.”

Da Gama Rose says that commitment to the long-term success of a project helps explain the desire of Clayco to play an integral role in site selection: “When we’re brought in early to the process, we can focus not just on the site but on the customer’s needs,” he says. “We know we’re going to be able to build the best building on the best site possible, but we also know that we’re going to be able to add value to teams and help with major decisions so that our customers will get everything they deserve out of their new facility.”

Exclusive Research