Contractors involved in design-build (D-B) were asked to look into their crystal ball to see what’s ahead in the D-B process. Here are a few prognostications for 2007:

PREDICTION 1:The way Steve Clay sees it, there are two most prevalent trends in the design-build industry right now: 1. The need for projects to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, and 2. the use of under floor air conditioning systems.

“Owners have more awareness of sustainability and environmental issues,” said Clay of TDIndustries, Ltd. (Dallas, Texas). “The ever-increasing energy costs are a significant factor in the life cycle of the building. By designing a project to meet LEED standards, the owner not only provides a more energy-efficient building, but also a more environmentally efficient - or greener - building.

“This may help not only with operational issues, but in attracting tenants, attracting and/or retaining employees, or showing their need to be environmentally sensitive.”

In regard to under floor air distribution, owners are continually faced with a need for reconfiguration of current spaces. Clay believes under floor air distribution makes this relatively simple and cost effective.

“Many owners are going to the open office/cubicle concept and this works very well,” he said. “It also lends itself to owners that have a need for extensive data cabling and electrical service to work stations. This system also allows for more LEED credits than a traditional system.”

PREDICTION 2:John Trickel, a mechanical engineer with the consulting firm of VGI Design (Des Moines, Iowa), believes those who stay connected will reap the benefits.

“One of the most prominent trends I see is the ability to share and collaborate on project data and other information that is being generated by all team members. Projects are moving faster than ever and this requires an enhanced method of connectivity, utilizing Internet-based collaboration tools. With building information modeling trending upwards at the same time, contractors need to start positioning themselves to work in our connected world. This takes specialty skills and software-hardware tools.”

Trickel added, “We are all on the forefront of the information age. Those who can capture, retain, share, and collaborate data will be the drivers moving forward.”

PREDICTION 3:When all is said and done, financing beats the drum, believes Joe Nichter, president, Tri-City Mechanical (Chandler, Ariz.).

“Protracted design and bidding processes run up the carrying costs of a project, and increase the probability of cost escalations, and decrease the marketing window for competitive projects,” he said. “The process can be likened to, and is partially driven by, the progression from postal mail to fax mail to e-mail to ftp sites in communications.”

PREDICTION 4:Mike Dillard, vice president, Mechanical Services of Central Florida Inc. (MSI), believes the industry is going through a significant generational change - and that there are ramifications, accordingly.

“Young, talented engineers are entering the workforce,” he explained. “Moving forward, mechanical contractors that have made the investment in resources to develop a design-build orientation can provide valuable ‘in the trenches’ experience for our next generation of engineers. But it will take commitment.

“Also, owners are looking to trusted service providers for advice on their expansion plans. As their businesses grow, they are considering major investments in systems that support their operations. Economics has a role in their decisions as well.

“When done properly, a design-build approach should represent a significant overall savings and many times can actually shorten the construction time.”

Publication date:01/08/2007