Integrated Project Delivery: Bringing Back the Master Builder

By on November 29, 2017

From Burns and McDonnell:
by Greg Carlson

The concept of master builder dates to ancient times. In fact, the word architect comes from the Greek for chief (arch) and builder  (tektōn). For centuries, the master builder blurred the lines between architect, engineer and builder. However, over time those lines grew more defined as the industry moved toward more separation between construction and design.

Now many see the benefits of circling back to the master builder approach — and integrated design-build can be the mechanism.

The ancient master builders, such as those who built the pyramids, had authority over every phase of a project, from design through construction. In the first century, Roman writer Vitruvius noted how architects commonly served a wide range of roles, including surveyor, engineer, landscape designer, artist and craftsman.

The Renaissance was an era of increasing differentiation between professions. And while the role of the master builder diminished over the centuries, scattered remnants of the original idea remained as recently as 80 years ago. An aversion to risk, a desire for greater control and increased legal influence became the final nails in the coffin for the master builder idea. Architects, engineers and contractors continued to separate culturally and contractually.

In some industries, that significant divide never occurred. In the energy and heavy industrial world, the engineer-procure-construct (EPC) delivery method is commonplace, reflecting a master builder approach.

In the commercial and light industrial sector, owners are hungry for a similar solution. They know typical project delivery methods can be inefficient and ineffective. Today, the built process is returning to the master builder idea as commercial owners are seeing the benefits of a design-build construction model. It’s a step in the right direction. But there’s an opportunity for a huge leap — and a modern, innovative take on master builder principles — with integrated design-build.

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