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Richard Baxter, AIA, CSI
Senior Member
Username: rbaxter

Post Number: 18
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 07:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

What basic changes should be made to specifications written for design-build projects? With design-build, I am working for the contractor instead of the owner. So, I can’t rely so much on my normal instincts and standard specifications, which are all about protecting and defending the owner’s interests. I have always written specs as if I were telling the contractor what the owner would tell the contractor if the owner knew what to tell the contractor. But, with design/build, I am addressing my own employer and am forced to recognize the contractor’s interests regardless of whether or not I think they are in the owner’s best interests at some level. And, since the specs are addressed to my own employer, they are really an exercise in futility. My employer can change anything he wants in the spec.

Is there some kind of design/build standard out there that deals with closely tying together the interests of the contractor and the owner so that my specs don’t turn out to be a waste of my time?
Jim Brittell
Senior Member
Username: jwbrittell

Post Number: 13
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006 - 07:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


I used to work as an architect in a design-build firm (design and construction under one roof, so to speak). I fully agree that writing specs in that environment can be (but doesn't have to be) futile. It was our policy to prepare drawings and specifications to acheive a reasonable level of quality regardless of what happens in the field. If the design/build entity wants to do repeat work for their clients, then it must meet the Owner's expectations regarding quality.

I know of no standard that addresses the needs of the Owner in design/build. Ultimately, the Owner needs to protect his/her own interests with in-house or out-house expertise.
Shedrick E. Glass, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: shedd_glass

Post Number: 15
Registered: 07-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 09:05 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Bear in mind, the obligations to the owner are the same regardless of the contracting method. I have 2 clients providing design/build services to the project owner and I find little difference in the Project Manual. One uses DBIA (Design/Build Initiative) documents, the other, AIA A-201.
The only differences I make in such projects are in division 1 where requirements placed on the General Contractor are less detailed. Not deleted, just stated in more general terms. For example, a project field office is required but specifics such as size, equipment, HVAC, and other detailed requirements are not specified. Very much like an outline or short form spec would be.
Technical specifications sections serve the same purpose regardless of contracting method.
Susan McClendon
Senior Member
Username: susan_mcclendon

Post Number: 42
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 10:07 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Your question about tying the interests of the owner and contractor together -- that's the owner-DB agreement. Does that already exist? or are your specs intended to be part of that document? if the latter, the document is likely to be very different from traditional specs, because it will need to cover design criteria, codes, and other high level standards that are not normally included in d-b-b specs. Secondly, how far along is the design? If the O-DB contract is based on only a preliminary design (or less), then the DB will likely want more than normal leeway to change the design as it progresses (hopefully for the better). That means that traditional specs for a product would be included only as a required level of quality in the event that product is used in the design -- not as a prescribed product to be used. That's often not understood by either the owner or the DB. It also means that some of those specs will be "wasted" (not used), so it would be prudent to avoid spending more time on them than necessary.
Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 309
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 11:16 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

To me we are talking about two different delivery systems.

One is the straight D/B where the owner deals/contracts directly with the D/B frm, who produces its own design, drawings and specs. Now if that firm hires an "outside" [non-captive] architect, then the question of how the specs "speak" is a new question and usually will be in a foreshortened form, since they are to direct the D/B firm's construction personell.

The other system is called"Bridging", wherein the owner hires an architect to develop an outline or sophisticated program in fairly general terms [like guide specs]to describe the project. This is then turned over to the D/B firm for their normal development of drawings and specs [as noted above]-- but again in their language, BUT in terms to meet the owner's wishes as described in the program.

The architect hired directly by the owner does not produce actual drawings, and specs for the construction.
William C. Pegues, FCSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: wpegues

Post Number: 529
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 11:59 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Ralph's understanding also reflects my own experience and one we have been through several times.

We have done a number of these over the past several years. In one, we were hired by a contractor to act as his architect. The contractor had a design/build contract with GSA for a building housing an agency. The government delivered to the contractor their requirements. The DB contractor interpreted those and delivered them to us. We produced drawings and specifications for the contractor. Interestingly, the contractor requested that we produce them exactly we had done for projects where they were a traditional contractor. They wanted competitiveness between suppliers and subcontractors. And on many systems they wanted to hold the subs to specific requirements - not just performance, but also design selections. They felt more comfortable that way, even to langauge obligating them to do certain things specific ways as opposed to doing them more open optioned.

Here in the DC area, one of the agencies that used to deal more direct with contractors and architects is the Veterans Admin. One of the DC Metro's members was a long time employee of the VA and was called upon from time to time to make presentations on their experience in Design/Build to both local chapters.

The presentations that they made related conditions exactly like Ralph describes.

1 - they typically hired their own architect to develop the design and take it through design development phase.

2 - they then typically retained that architect through contract document and construction phases to act as their architectural consultant to review documents and submittals.

3 - they hired a contractor as a design/build team to produce the contract documents and build the project, and the contractor in turn hired his own architect (if they did not have internal services of their own performing this).

The VA was very adamant about hiring their own architect for design development and then to act as a consultant to them. They wanted their input through design, and their input through quality control, to review the documents being produced to assure they were getting what they required in the manner in which they expected. They had considerable success this way, and the VA was one of the big leaders in the design/build process doing this all over the country with facilities of all different sizes.

George A. Everding, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: geverding

Post Number: 112
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 12:42 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

When you do specifications for design build and the contractor is your client, are you asked use specification sections to divide the work among subcontractors? It’s ingrained in us that we do not do this. AIA A201 and often our Division 01 state that organizing the project manual into divisions, sections and articles does not establish the work to be performed by each trade.

But I wonder if the design-build client doesn’t require this additional function of the specifier. Anyone been asked to do this? It would seem to be an additional service and additional effort.
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 466
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 12:46 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I think George is right about this, and I think it's a service we absolutely should offer. Who's in a better position than a skilled specifier to create the "scope" documents that these contractors require?
Curt Norton, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: curtn

Post Number: 106
Registered: 06-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 12:47 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Any respectable DB firm will want a well written project manual to be sure their subs are bidding on the same thing. I wrote specs for true DB, negotiated work and DBB at an architectural firm. Now I work for a DB doing construction project management. It really isn't much different just because of the delivery method. Yes, our Division 1 is shorter. We know what we are doing for trailers, but teh subs need to know what they can or can't do on site. As for the technical sections, we just have some flexibility when we are offered a substitution. We still have to weigh the risks of an unknown product. Quite often it's denied, because it's not worth the risk. When it's design build there's no finger pointing and saying "well, the architect approved it!"
William C. Pegues, FCSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: wpegues

Post Number: 530
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 12:48 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have never been asked to write sections directed to subs or trades in the various design/build projects we have done.

I would not be surprised to hear that some had though. We would consider it an additional service because it is not the standard of the industry to do so.

Jim Wahlmeier PE
Senior Member
Username: jwahlmeier

Post Number: 8
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 12:49 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Doing what your employer desires is a basic requirement. Doing what is legal is also a requirement. It sounds as if you certainly do work for the contractor. This can still serve the owner - the spec's can be a disclosure of quality, design intent, and a means of communicating details of the end product. It can also serve as a roadmap of contractor expectations of owner involvement, approvals, and review times.

It can be a document which captures the agreements and premises of the contract. The thoroughness of contractor input can help flush out any potential disagreements, or unfortunate misunderstandings prior to breaking ground, allowing sufficient time to forge agreements. It's always nice as a contractor, or sub-contractor, to know that what is being built meets “expectations”, and that the project is win-win. This adds to the speed (uninterrupted work flow) and success of projects. Your greatest asset may be your ability to provide a consulting /communicating arm of the contractor, placing owner expectations and contractor intent on the same page - counseling for success. These are the types of consultants that DB's are looking for.

But you are correct, owner interest is subject to the prime contract, and could be a much lower priority that we’re all accustomed to in traditional-build.
J. Peter Jordan
Senior Member
Username: jpjordan

Post Number: 176
Registered: 05-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - 01:10 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

On a recent DB project where my design firm was directly contracted to the builder, the Owner expected to be able to review a "tight" set of drawings and specifications before final pricing and initiation of construction. I was somewhat surprised to find how little direction our client (the builder) was interested in giving us in regard to preferred products or manufacturers. Some of that had to do with the project being public work, but some of it had to do with their wanting to keep the "design" at arms length.

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