Design build – purpose-built construction with early benefits

There’s a reason why design build is becoming the preferred solution for businesses looking for purpose-built warehouse and distribution facilities. Calder Stewart’s general manager of national clients and design, Adrian Mathieson, believes it comes down to better management of two things – complexity and risk.

National freight services provider Bascik Transport has used a design build solution for 16 different projects with Calder Stewart over 20 years

Bringing a construction partner onboard upfront removes some of the complexity and risk from a project, which in turn leads to faster delivery and more total project cost savings, according to Mr Mathieson.

As a nationwide construction and property group, Calder Stewart has seen increased interest in design build solutions over the last few years. “It makes sense for the clients and their boards to know exactly what kind of investment and outcome they’re signing on for upfront,” Mr Mathieson adds. 

Calder Stewart is well placed to deliver market-leading design build solutions, with over 65 years of experience across New Zealand construction environments. 


Mr Mathieson is a big advocate of the design build approach because of the clear and proven benefits to clients. “The fact is that good planning helps to keep costs down,” he says. 

Where traditional construction models can carry complexity and risk for businesses, a design build allows for early contractor involvement, and therefore full integration of the design and construction team in the planning stages. This delivers a more efficient project. 

The Design Build Institute of America has found that design build solutions are delivered up to 30% faster and with 6% or more project cost efficiencies. This has been the experience in New Zealand also, says Mr Mathieson. 


To fully understand the opportunity of a design build solution, it is important to compare it with a traditional build process. 

In the traditional build process the risk profile sits with the business owner who takes responsibility for the time and cost risk of the design process. Because the design and construction parts of the project are separated, there can be limited clarity about construction costs upfront. 

Once the design is completed and the construction bid is in, the cost of variations or programme changes sit with the business. The risk of these changes occurring increases because construction and pricing expertise is not included within the design process. The business is also responsible for managing the multiple contacts and consultants throughout the project. 

With a design build solution, the project cost and time risk sit with the contractor. The contractor is responsible for bringing together design and construction expertise to price for the whole project upfront. This gives the business clarity over costs and quality from the outset. 

The contractor is responsible for managing all suppliers and consultants throughout, and takes responsibility for any unforeseen design or construction issues. Because design, construction and pricing expertise are brought together, the likelihood for design and programme changes decreases.

Mr Mathieson also believes that design build is becoming more popular because it sets up a collaborative environment that promotes innovative ideas. “When design and construction specialists work together from the outset, there is end-to-end clarity across every aspect of the project, which in turn promotes collaboration and innovative thinking,” he notes.


An impressive list of New Zealand organisations are turning to design build solutions. Calder Stewart has worked to deliver purpose-built storage and distribution facilities for Bascik Transport, Mainfreight, Move Logistics, and the ports of Auckland, Nelson, Tauranga and Otago, amongst numerous others.

National freight services provider Bascik Transport has used the design build solution with Calder Stewart in a number of projects from Invercargill to Auckland. The recent Auckland project required an extension of an existing warehouse, the construction of a new canopy to enhance unloading and loading of their fleet of trucks, and the construction of a new purpose-built commercial building on existing land. Because of their specific requirements and scale, the design build process gave them both investment and timeline clarity upfront. The Christchurch operation has also had a new facility that opened in August to service South Island growth. 

Another recent example delivered by Calder Stewart is the design and build of a 20,000 sq m storage warehouse for Port of Tauranga tenant Coda. Coda is one of New Zealand’s leading freight management businesses that contracts storage to companies such as Fonterra and Westland Milk. Many of this project’s features were included in the design to enable an expeditious build – a very tight 11-month design and construction deadline. 

For such a large building, this was a significant undertaking, with at least four months taken up with the design development and consenting process alone. The design build process allowed Calder Stewart to get the jump on certain construction items during the design and consent phases. “Thanks to smart upfront planning, this project was well executed for Coda and Port of Tauranga from day one,” says Mr Mathieson.

For more information about design build solutions, visit the Calder Stewart website

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