As design-build jobs grow in size and complexity, many need a designated person to facilitate communication between all parties and to ensure the project stays true to the owner’s vision, said panelists at the Design-Build Conference & Expo in Maryland last week.
That’s where a design integration manager comes in.
“Design-build jobs are getting bigger and bigger by the day it seems like. Teams are huge, managing hundreds if not thousands of activities,” said Sean Gellhaus, associate vice president and national contracting manager at Kansas City, Missouri-based HNTB. “When you have a big team managing lots of activities, communication is critical, because if A, B and C don’t know what X, Y and Z are doing, you’ve got a big problem headed your way.”
A design integration manager keeps the project meshed with design expectations through each step of the building process and proactively mitigates conflict. Usually builder-supplied, they liaise with the design lead and construction manager as well as the owner, and mitigate issues as they arise by breaking down communication silos.
“[The design integration manager is] the glue that holds the entire design-build project together,” said Lori Ann Stevens, vice president and director of technical design with New York City-based Turner Engineering Group, a subsidiary of Turner Construction. “They are there to ensure that the owner’s needs are met, that the architect’s design integrity is preserved and that the estimate remains in that reserved bucket.”
An ideal design integration manager should be an experienced and effective leader, a collaborative decision-maker and a mediator, the panelists said. They should know how projects work, and respect the roles that everyone plays on a project and understand how they work together, said Scott Martin, project director and design-build market lead at Houston-headquartered engineering firm Walter P Moore.
Key responsibilities for this role include overseeing fundamental design direction and confirming the project meets its goals and criteria, establishing design budget “guard rails,” facilitating timely design decision-making, coordinating delivery of design packages and facilitating design and constructability reviews as well as communication between design and construction teams.
Here are five tips from panelists to make design integration management successful.
Build and nurture team trust
It’s important to build a team dynamic early and foster an environment of accountability, said Susan O’Connell, managing principal of higher ed with Los Angeles-