Systematic partnership - 5. Design & Build conference in Berlin

Following a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Design & Build conference took place in person once again in Berlin this year. In addition to the partnership-based approach to construction, other key topics included digitalisation and examples of best practice from other markets. A series of examples demonstrated anew the benefits of integrating planning and construction processes. However, there were also animated discussions surrounding the need for market participants to adjust their mindsets. ISG was a main sponsor of the event for the fourth time. Due to our international presence and client base, Design & Build and other partnership-based models are an essential part of our standard service package.

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Dabkon Design & Build Iris Wolke-Haupt

For this reason, the opening address from our Managing Director Germany, Iris Wolke-Haupt, featured an impassioned call for a systematically partnership-based culture in construction. In her time as Managing Director of a municipal property company in Leipzig, Wolke-Haupt relied on innovative contract-award models, such as competitive dialogue in tendering procedures, in order to secure cost certainty at a particularly early stage.

Recurrent topics in major projects in Germany include construction costs, the construction period, timely completion and the quality of the finished project. On the German market, most projects follow an established structure, with planning and construction phases still largely separate in project development and implementation. However, this means that the parties involved – including the client – lose time and money compared to an integrated, partnership-based approach. ISG is convinced that a partnership-based approach is a major opportunity to tackle numerous challenges in construction projects. Instead of working separately alongside each other, an integrated approach allows all parties involved in a project to contribute their expertise from the outset.  

Across the pond in the United States, a range of projects have confirmed the efficiency gains of partnership models compared to conventional methods. One example is the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), established in 1993. In her speech to the conference, Deb Sheehan of the DBIA Board of Directors shared impressive figures that should encourage the entire construction industry to engage with the Design-Build model. Design & Build is now among the most popular contract models in the United States. However, the progress made over the last 20 years or so has been hard-won. Thomas Ummels from Amsterdam-based project developer EDGE also spoke about the ability of partnership models to assert themselves, as did Oliver Bartz from Arcadis in reference to developments in Australia.

It will be necessary to meet certain requirements to establish Design & Build in the German market. Design & Build partners can either be specialist in-house planners and construction experts or a robust network of architects and specialist planners that companies can call on at any time. All parties must come together to develop a clear objective for the construction project and define both quantitative and qualitative criteria to assess this. Transparency is a top priority throughout the project. This applies in particular to costs, with open-book contracts already established in Germany. The project partners also need to be willing to share information, ideally on digital platforms but also in general. The Design & Build concept cannot succeed without such an open mindset. As a result, ‘collaboration’ was the word on everyone’s lips at this year’s conference.

ISG will continue to make a decisive contribution at future conferences with a view to promoting partnership-based construction models among German clients. This will bring about a cultural shift from which the entire construction and real estate industry could benefit enormously.

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