Enhancing Value Through Integrated Design-Build Teams

Colleges and university systems traditionally have maintained sophisticated facility departments that manage campus infrastructure, renovations, and new construction. They have extensive experience working with contractors, architects and engineers under different delivery methods. For many campuses facing tight capital budgets and shrinking state funding, design-build is becoming an optional delivery method to manage budget, program, schedule, and quality construction. Yet design-build can also offer added value with an experienced team that researches design innovation.

Here is how design-build can benefit your campus project.


In a traditional design → bid → build delivery model, owners have separate contracts between the contractor and architect. Design-build, on the other hand, promotes collaboration between owner, contractor and architect through a single contract for architecture, engineering and construction services. For university systems, design-build provides a single point of contact to track workflow from project inception through completion.

The design-build team works from a Design Criteria Package (or Owner’s Requirement Program) that outlines program, performances, specifications, design guidelines, materials, budget, and schedule. The Design Criteria Package allows team members to review the project holistically and verify the program.

While a general misconception is that design takes a back seat to construction, the opposite is often the reality. Design-build is really about integration of services. The ideal team brings specialized expertise that allows each member to identify potential challenges and make adjustments cost-effectively. Through this process, all team members take ownership of the construction documents.

Adding Design Value

Although the Design Criteria Package sets the project parameters, it does not necessarily dictate every aspect of the finished project. This is where design innovation and research enter the process.

For instance, through cost evaluation and life-cycle studies, the team can research materials and products that offer durability and long-term value, such as pre-cast concrete vs. stucco vs. brick. Through daylighting analysis, they can specify high-performance skylights and windows to reduce solar gain and increase HVAC efficiency. Through regional wind studies, they can position operable windows to enhance cross-ventilation and promote a healthy indoor environment. And through circulation studies, they can identify high-activity zones where they can add pocket seating, landscaping or other design features to encourage casual student gathering.


At Los Angeles Harbor College Science Complex, for instance, HGA and Pinner Construction employed several iterative research steps to develop notable design solutions, including single-loaded corridors that support natural cross-ventilation, corridor seating that encourages student gathering, exterior circulation that functions as shading devices, and stepped building massing that considers prevailing wind directions.

In other instances, spatial studies can determine where to borrow square footage without increasing the program to create models of flexible learning.


For Cañada College in Redwood City, California, HGA and McCarthy Building Companies increased square footage per student in classrooms while minimally decreasing administrative square footage to plan modular classrooms for a 50,000-square-foot, three-story Math, Science and Technology Classroom and Lab Building in development. The flexible modular approach supports active learning environments that can be reconfigured for a variety of pedagogies. The 4’ x 5’ module allows clarity and simplicity of design and can be scaled up or down between classroom and lab, creating an adaptable and future-proof building.

If studies are done early in the process, as with Cañada College and Los Angeles Harbor College, savings can be locked into the program and passed onto the owner.


While design-build is gaining in popularity, it is not necessarily the answer for all owners. Your choice of different delivery methods will depend on your specific project needs and goals. Yet for those selecting design-build, choosing the right team with the right experience and approach can lead to increased value. When planning design-build, remember:

  • Budget, program and schedule are set in the Design Criteria Package.
  • A collaborative design-build team will research added design value.
  • DESIGN is 50 percent of design-build.

Topics: Education


From science buildings to classrooms, residence halls and other campus landmarks, higher education architecture offers opportunities to explore new models of learning.

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