What is highest performing project delivery method?

By Dave Crumrine


Whether you deliver your automation projects in a Design-Build (D-B) format or use a variety of other project delivery methods, a study by the Construction Industry Institute brings some much-needed empirical evidence to the "best" project delivery debate.


As project delivery professionals, we control systems integrators know one method can't fit all clients' needs for all projects. D-B and its process industry counterpart, Engineer-Procure-Construct, have been becoming more popular at an increasing rate.


Until now, the reason was simply that owners got more of what they wanted from their projects. As they became more successful, the news spread in their organizations and to others through word of mouth.


According to the Construction Industry Institute and the< University Texas at Austin, a project-delivery research study proves it. By studying some 350 projects of varying delivery methods and types, key performance metrics prove what many of us have known for some time.

  • D-B is faster.
  • D-B has better cost control.
  • D-B has better schedule control.
  • D-B delivers as good, or better, vis-à-vis quality than other delivery methods, thus giving the customer what they want.
  • D-B has notable advantages in subjective areas like single source responsibility, team building, and risk management.


Faster: Using square foot rates and other criteria, D-B was determined to produce projects faster than both traditional-design-bid-build-delivery and construction management at risk. When the design phase is included, D-B produced projects more than twice as fast as traditional design-bid-build (DBB).


Cost control: The study showed D-B method the best for controlling costs while traditional DBB fared the worst. The median cost growth for D-B projects was 2.17%, less than half the cost growth of traditionally delivered projects.


Schedule containment: Schedules are crucial for any project. The study found the average traditional DBB project schedule grew 4.4%. D-B projects tended to not grow their schedule at all. The study shows their median growth at 0%.


Quality performance: Using a variety of quantifiable factors related to quality, owners ranked each factor on how well the project delivered on their expectations. They examined elements like callbacks, O&M costs, meeting owner intent, equipment selection, and others.


From this, each project received a composite quality score. D-B had the highest quality rating of the three project delivery methods.


D-B's score was some 17% higher than DBB. DBB delivery posted the lowest quality score. Considering traditional practitioners have historically argued that quality was one of the big tradeoffs when using D-B, such a result is a welcome clarifier for D-B practitioners in what is an ongoing debate.











So, why isn't everyone using D-B? Change is hard, and one size simply doesn't fit all.


Certain projects will always require a different approach. Some public owners are still struggling to get legislative access to the method.


However, plan to see more and more D-B delivery.



Dave Crumrine (dave.crumrine@

interstates.com) is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) and is president of Interstates Construction Services, a design-build electrical contracting, engineering, automation, and instrumentation system services company.



CSIA-Thought leaders for the application of technology in industry



Construction Industry Institute at

the University of Texas at Austin: Summaries of the report to which this article refers



Design-Build Institute of America: Project delivery information related to this article




Design-Build is an owner driven project delivery mechanism used to reduce the project delivery time by overlapping the design phase and construction phase of a project. This does not shorten the time it takes to draw the drawings, acquire the building permits, or build the building. Rather, it focuses on interweaving the design, permit, and construction schedules in order to capture the time lost in a traditional Bid-Build environment. In this way, Design-Build represents a risk management strategy that places a premium on delivering the project sooner versus delivering it cheaper.


CM@risk: Construction management at risk has proven to be an extremely beneficial project delivery method. It applies a contractor's perspective and input to planning and design decisions and has the ability to fast track early components of construction. CM@risk allows a client to select a construction manager based on qualifications, making the CM a member of a collaborative project team, thus reducing risk for the client, the A/E firm, the CM, and the subcontractors