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INDEPENDENT 9/18/07 11:53 AM Page 12

INDUSTRY TRENDS

Design Challenge
HOW WILL ARCHITECTS MAINTAIN RELEVANCE IN THE DESIGN/BUILD WHEN
IT’S DOMINATED BY CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS? By Brooke Knudson

C
onsider for a moment the process that takes place number to grow. “The Design Build institute of America predicts
when building a facility, and the key players who that by 2010, 50 percent of all construction will be design/build,”
bring the project to fruition. Now consider the archi- he says. “Architects will have a big decision to make. They can
tect’s role in that process. Do you view it as respon- either be a sub, or take the lead. The choice is theirs to make.”
sible for creating great building designs, or do you Many firms today go through the process of designing the
feel it operates more as a subcontractor? building, creating the construction drawings and handing them
You might be surprised to find out that more often than not, off to a contractor to complete. This detached way of doing busi-
architects are being viewed not as an extension of the contractor. ness can lead to miscommunication causing cost overruns,
As design/build construction becomes the preferred delivery scheduling delays and dissatisfied clients.
method, many architects are finding themselves taking a back The benefits of architect-led design/build are numerous, says
seat to construction managers. Quatman, who is also an attorney with Shughart, Thomson &
Many architects are beginning to find a remedy to the problem Kilory in Kansas City. With this delivery method, architects can
in architect-led design-build as a project delivery method. Not only control the budget, schedule and quality of the building.
does this method ease how a project progresses, but it could be the “Every single architect I’ve talked to has told me three things.
way the profession will maintain its relevance in the industry. When you’re in the lead you have total control of the process;
they are having more fun in their careers because they work in
the team relationship with the contractor; and they’re making
“A BIG
ARCHITECTS WILL HAVE
DECISION TO MAKE.
more money in their careers instead of taking the slim profit
from the design fees,” Quatman insists.
THEY CAN EITHER BE A
Progressive Steps
SUB, OR TAKE THE LEAD.
– Bill Quatman ” Some architects, however, are reluctant to take on the risks asso-
ciated with taking the pole position on a project. Mandatory
bonding, for example, is one concern that architects face with
Architect-led design/build has been the architect’s reaction to most public contracts, Quatman explains. In most cases, firms
experiencing the life of a subcontractor, says Bill Quatman, vice must carry substantial assets to ensure a surety will write a bond
chair of the AIA Design/Build Knowledge Community. “Architects for the company to hold a prime contract, he says. Architects tra-
for generations, who have been trained and experienced in lead- ditionally keep assets low and insurance high.
ing the process, now find themselves as subcontractors – they The other concern is risk associated with the lead position.
want to take back that leadership role,” he notes. “We think that most architects have the initial concern of risk
“As design/build has taken off in the last 20 years in the United and liability,” Quatman explains. Although architects usually pre-
States, it’s been the contractors who have jumped out in front fer to take on only insurable risks and avoid certain supervisory
and led the process,” Quatman says. “Most architects prefer the roles, architect-led design/build requires the opposite, and own-
traditional method of construction where they’re the leaders of ers want someone willing to take on responsibility.
the process, and they have the initial contact with the owners “While I’ve probably met 50 architects who have taken the
and maintain a close relationship with the client.” lead, they are a very small minority of architect professionals and
the small- to mid-sized architects who are more aggressive for
Big Decisions two reasons: It’s hard to turn a large firm’s culture around and
Today, Quatman predicts, about one out of 10 AIA members are the second is that larger firms are more concerned about the
a part of the design/build community, although he predicts that identity crisis they might have with their clients.”

12 ■ CONSTRUCTION TODAY ■ OCTOBER 2007