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When embarking on a new construction project, the choice of project delivery method is crucial as it determines the roles and responsibilities of project stakeholders throughout the design and construction process. Two popular project delivery structures are CMAR vs Design-Build (design-build and construction manager) at risk, each offering benefits and challenges to stakeholders. Owners must take into consideration various factors, including their own skillset, level of involvement, and willingness to shoulder risks when selecting a delivery method. In this article, we will explore these two methods and assist owners in determining which one suits their upcoming project.

Understanding Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) – CMAR vs Design-Build

The Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) method, also known as CMAR vs Design-Build, combines the roles of construction manager and general contractor into one. In this method, the owner hires a design firm to initiate the design process for a new project. Once the design process begins, the construction manager is brought in to provide consultation on the design plans.

This early collaboration benefits both parties as the owner gains additional expertise from an experienced professional while the construction manager gets to fully understand the design and site conditions that could impact construction.

The completed design is then put out for bids, and although the consulting CM does not necessarily win the bid, their prior involvement with the project could lead to a more competitive bid.

Once a CM is selected, they enter into a contract with the owner that includes a guaranteed maximum price (GMP), which reduces the owner’s risk and places it onto the construction manager.

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CMAR projects can be split into multiple phases, allowing construction to begin on one phase before the design of the next is complete, thereby reducing project timelines compared to traditional DBB methods.

Understanding Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) - CMAR vs Design-Build
Understanding Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) – CMAR vs Design-Build

Benefits of CMAR

To know clearly CMAR vs Design-Build. The CMAR project delivery method has gained popularity among owners for several reasons. Here are some of the factors that make it a favorable choice:

1. Enhanced input in construction design:

CMAR allows contractors to have early involvement in the design process, providing valuable expertise and the opportunity to influence the design. This can help prevent challenges and change orders during construction, resulting in a higher-quality build.

2. Bidding advantages:

With CMAR, contractors have more time and in-depth knowledge of the design, enabling them to submit more specific and potentially more competitive bids. This benefits owners by potentially reducing costs and increases the contractor’s chances of winning the project.

3. Cost certainty for the owner:

By providing a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) in the contract, construction managers offer owners a level of financial risk mitigation. If the project costs exceed the budget, the owner’s risk is lowered, providing cost certainty.

Overall, CMAR offers added value through early collaboration, improved bidding opportunities, and increased cost certainty for owners.

The Cons of CMAR

Contractors advocate for the widespread adoption of the CMAR method due to the enhanced input into design and bidding advantages. However, like any project method, there are considerations and challenges for Construction Managers (CMs) embracing CMAR.

  1. Greater Risk During Construction: CMs shoulder significant risk in CMAR projects, especially with the guaranteed maximum price (GMP). Any unforeseen site conditions, material delays, or regulatory changes necessitating late design alterations can lead to additional costs, placing the CM at financial risk.

  2. Prolonged Construction Timeline: While CMAR may offer opportunities for overlapping design and construction in multi-phased projects, the sequential timeline may not match the time savings achieved through other project methods like Design-Build.

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Understanding Design-Build

To understand CMAR vs Design-Build. The design-build (DB) delivery method, witnessing a resurgence, offers a collaborative approach and rapid project delivery. Nearly half of all US projects now embrace this method.

  1. Project Conception and Feasibility: The owner collaborates with a design-build team for project conception, feasibility, and site selection. Upon commencing design and cost estimation, the owner issues an RFP, often to selected proposers.

  2. Selection Process: In DB, the owner chooses a design-build team based on project quotes and the team’s value proposition. The selected design-build firm takes charge of completing the design process, finalizing scope, schedule, and budget.

  3. Single Point of Contact: DB provides a single point of contact for the owner, reducing administrative burden, and potentially expediting project completion.

The Benefits of DBB

Design-Bid-Build (DBB) offers a unique organizational structure with distinct features and drawbacks.

  1. Compacted Schedule: DBB’s notable feature is its ability to deliver projects in a shorter timeframe. The collaboration between the design and construction team enables concurrent work on different project phases, significantly reducing the overall schedule.

  2. Increased Collaboration: The involvement of the general contractor from the project’s outset fosters collaboration. The contractor’s expertise contributes to a smoother design process and a more efficient and cost-effective build.

  3. Lower Owner Risk: With DBB, the design-build team assumes much of the risk for both design and construction phases. Extra costs, rework, or delays are the responsibility of the design-builder, offering the owner a single point of contact for updates.

Disadvantages of Design-Build

CMAR vs Design-Build. While DBB streamlines the project process, it introduces challenges related to communication and control.

  1. Owner’s Reduced Control: Owners have less control in the DB method, with reduced transparency into individual project costs compared to separate design and construction pricing.

  2. Increased Risk for the DB Team: The design-build team assumes more risk in DB. Collaborative success is crucial, and if disagreements arise between designers and builders, project risks may escalate.

Owners must carefully weigh the advantages and drawbacks of each method, considering project goals, timelines, and collaboration preferences.

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The Cons of CMAR
The Cons of CMAR

Similarities between Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) and Design-Build (DB):

1. Early Contractor Involvement:

Both CMAR vs Design-Build methods involve engaging the contractor early in the design process. This early involvement allows the contractor to provide input and expertise during the design phase, which can lead to improved designs and potentially reduce design changes during construction.

2. Potential Design and Construction Overlap:

Both methods may allow for some overlap between design and construction activities. While Design-build (DB) has a greater potential for significant schedule compression by allowing construction to begin while later phases of design are being finalized, CMAR also offers the possibility of limited overlap in certain cases.

3. Owner’s Release of Risk and Input:

In a DB project, the owner relinquishes control and transfers both risk and input to the design-build team. Similarly, in CMAR, the owner entrusts the construction manager with a significant level of project control and design knowledge. This release of risk and input in both methods allows for streamlined project management and potential cost savings.

4. Tailoring to Project Needs:

The choice between CMAR vs Design-Build depends on the owner’s preferences and project requirements. DB is well-suited for owners seeking a reduced timeline and complex project delivery, as it allows for construction to commence while design progresses.

CMAR, on the other hand, provides more control over the project’s design and allows for precise bidding based on the construction manager’s comprehensive knowledge of the project.

Ultimately, the decision between CMAR vs Design-Build methods should consider the owner’s comfort level with project management and desired project completion timeline.

Similarities between Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) and Design-Build (DB)
Similarities between Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) and Design-Build (DB)

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