How Design-Build Can Get Construction Projects Completed With Less Money, and in Less Time

Derek K. Robbins feels like too many people approach the construction process as if they were walking onto a sketchy used-car lot: on high alert, hand over their wallet, with the unshakable feeling that they’re about to be taken advantage of. But the president and CEO of Summerville-based Robbins Construction Group stresses that it doesn’t have to be that way.

“We just try to do construction differently,” says Robbins, who moved to the Charleston area from Asheboro, N.C., nearly a decade ago. “We try to eliminate that guard-up mentality, and say we’re here to be your partner. We just want to help you build your dream, or your next facility, or whatever the case may be.”

Toward that end, Robbins Construction Group brings a streamlined approach to the table: design-build, a process by which the client uses one company for all facets of the commercial construction process, rather than selecting separate architects, engineers and general contractors who might not all be on the same page.

When your design and construction team are working together, there will be a much more streamlined schedule. This will result in fewer bottlenecks and more opportunities for concurrent work. Design and construction involve managing hundreds of timelines that need to coordinate in lockstep. Robbins Construction Group creates opportunities for owners to contemplate major decisions, ask questions, and consider their options. All studies that compare construction methods conclude that the cost of design-build is markedly less. Inherent to the design-build model is a savings of approximately 6% of the project costs.

Design-build is all about making the construction process easier for the client, and Robbins Construction Group has the completed projects to back up its effectiveness: like a new 50,000-square-foot industrial flex building on Palmetto Commerce Parkway, or the new Floor & Décor store in Columbia.

A ‘one-stop shop’

The more traditional method can be exhaustive, especially on the front end. For owners, a (low-bid) may be very attractive. There have been countless examples of low bidders winning a job, and soon after, contractors and owners find themselves in a quandary. This is why construction professionals need to understand and be prepared for the potential risks that may accompany a project won through a low bid. The Robbins Construction Group team and the owner are in this together, and they have the same goal –to complete a successful project that meets or exceeds the owner’s expectations. When teams encounter challenges on a project (and there are always challenges), pointing fingers is not an option. Instead, everyone rolls up their sleeves and works on solutions together.

Robbins Construction Group helps to minimize risks for the project owner because it reduces the number of points of contact. Now that there is only one point of contact – Robbins Construction Group – there is also only one point of responsibility. The project owner does not take the risk that there are multiple parties he will need to sue, or that he will not be able to tell which party is at fault for a particular defect or flaw. As such, it also clarifies the remedies available to the project-owner, because there is only one party who could be liable.

Communication and transparency

And when clients have questions during the construction process, they know who to call. While Robbins Construction Group has a team of project managers watching over things on the ground and site supervisors who manage schedules and workflow, either Robbins or vice president Alan Burgeen personally oversees every project. High levels of communication and transparency have long been a hallmark of the company.

“We set out to be a partner, and so we offer a lot of communication,” Robbins says. “A lot of times it’s the good stuff, but sometimes it’s the bad. We don’t try to hide anything.”

Toward that end, Robbins Construction Group each Friday prepares a report for clients on the progress of their respective projects. Drone photographs are used to give owners a complete high-level view of the site. The weekly package includes a work completed, manpower report, weather status report, and a list of what’s expected to be accomplished over the following week. That means clients, whether in Charleston or elsewhere, don’t feel the pressure to be on-site all the time.

“We work a lot of national developers, and they really appreciate that because they are in other parts of the country,” Robbins says. “They get this report, they don't have to have someone on-site. They don't have to fly down once a month to check it out. They look at our reports and they feel confident that we're right on schedule.”

Interested in using design-build for your next commercial project? Contact Robbins Construction Group by phone at (843) 900-5408, visit their office at 207 East 1st North St. in Summerville, or visit their website at for further information.