design and build
26 February, 2024
The benefits of design and build vs traditional construction for higher education
This is the development process that fits in with universities rather than asking universities to fit in with the building and renovation process.

Education spaces are evolving – what they need, what’s expected of them and how they operate are all changing and will continue to progress as time goes on.

Those in charge are left with the responsibility of updating and maintaining the environment to compete for top talent and to ensure productivity amongst students and employees.  However, in amongst all that change, the machinations of higher education do not stop.

So, how do you develop university and higher education environments quickly and with minimal disruption? The answer is design and build.

The traditional construction process

The traditional approach to developing new spaces would be to appoint a Project Manager who is then responsible for hiring the wider contract team – an architect, a structural engineer, a fit out contractor, quantity surveyors and any other specialist contractors. That process alone can take the better part of a year or more.

The next step is to book the works into the contractors schedule, which might place it another six months or a year down the line before the project even starts, at which point it could easily take six months or a year to complete, depending on the required works. You might appoint a project manager of your own or another third party – all of which creates lots of moving parts.

There’s no overall transparency and the situation is ripe for delays, misunderstandings, miscommunication and logistical issues, which can add to the cost and cause delays. 

design and build

The solution is an all-in-one approach

Where design and build is different is that it creates a single point of contact with all those capabilities in one place, which streamlines the entire process. A D&B team encompasses the full design and build process, which makes it unique even within the design and build sector where teams like ours at Maris even have specialist experience in the Higher Education sector.

This process can mean that project can be designed and delivered in record time, but with total transparency on any challenges that arise and are to the ability to solve them quickly and seamlessly so as not to impact the overall project outcomes (or timeline!).  

The benefits

While the specifics of any individual project will have their own reasons as to why design and build is right for them, broadly speaking the universal benefits are compelling reasons for busy institutions to adopt this process, ensuring that they get their return on investment as quickly as possible. Some of those benefits include:

  • Cost certainty – this is true in general, however we also take the unusual step of mitigating budgetary risk by providing a cost guarantee once the project has been finalised.
  • A single point of contact and responsibility enabling better control and communications.
  • Faster programmes to fit in with your schedule (typically design and build projects are 33% faster in turnaround to traditional construction projects.
  • Greater capabilities for predicting schedules and meeting deadlines through in-house control of the majority of variables.
  • Minimised client risk as contractors are retained by the design and build specialist.
  • Minimum hassle for the client as all responsibilities for project management lie with the design and build specialist.
  • Bespoke design and high-quality results.
  • Best outcomes for complex building requirements and specialist needs, particularly suited to education.
  • A connected team and budgets set at the start of the project provides an excellent opportunity for value engineering and more precise cost predictions.

Design and build in action 

We put our turnkey approach into action on a daily basis, with projects ranging from large, full-scale builds to light-touch renovations. That means that our process is not mere conjecture, but demonstrable time and again, delivering on time, on budget and exceeding expectations. The proof is very much in the pudding, for example:

design and build

Design and build in action: Middlesex University

Middlesex University called our delivery of a project in January 2023 their ‘Christmas miracle’. They came to us in November 2022 and asked us to design and renovate laboratory space for 75 students to use in time for the start of the second term in January – which we did. The next project we’re working on will see us develop specialist lab space over summer holidays, ready for the new academic year in October.   

Maris Technical Director, Richard, said: “The project was a highly specialised one, working with the university to deliver a space that’s fundamental to a state-of-the-art scientific teaching facility. With works having largely taken place over the summer holidays, it should be an exciting new opportunity for students to enjoy going forwards.” 

Read more about Middlesex University

Middlesex University

Design and build in action: Buckinghamshire New University

At Buckinghamshire New University (BNU) we transformed the student experience with a game-changing three-storey atrium and two-storey glass winter garden designed to be the heart of the university. We did this with students in situ, with works spanning three graduations and all the education in between, making safety a priority and requiring us to keep noise and disruption to a minimum.

A BNU team member said: “A beautiful, wonderful place tastefully decorated and most welcoming. Our students and staff are so well deserving of this space. We outclass other institutions in our investments for our students’ comfort and enjoyment.”

Read more about Buckinghamshire New University

design and build

Design and build in action: London South Bank University

When London South Bank University (LSBU) approached us about developing their Croydon location, they wanted to turn a derelict Art Deco building into a state-of-the-art education facility for attracting and teaching the next generation of nurses, doctors, chiropractors and business leaders.  It was a beautiful project which involved working with the community, the council and English Heritage to bring the Grade II listed up to standard and to reimagine its spaces for a new purpose. For example, we transformed the original boardroom with its double height ceilings into a flexible lecture theatre with bleacher seating.   

Read more about LSBU

Transforming legacy buildings with design and build

A significant challenge area for universities is that many of them have a significant property portfolio but it’s been developed without strategy. Buildings themselves need updating, but so too does the thinking around how they’re used and the flow of the student experience between them.

With both BNU, Middlesex University, LSBU, and many other locations, that means that development work involves a lot of refurbishment, redevelopment and transformation of existing buildings, repurposing them as well as updating them.

Depending on the age of the building, this can be a complex and often sensitive space that requires considerations around listings, community involvement and even working with heritage organisations. There are modern health and safety considerations to address as well as the sympathetic reverence for the building’s heritage. The design and build process is ideally suited to those complexities, mitigating risks and improving communications through an in-house team and fewer contractors.

Overall, design and build offers universities and other higher education institutions a unique and exciting opportunity to create forward-thinking, productive and positive learning environments from new and existing sites, quickly and efficiently. The high level of knowledge, precision development, expertise and fast turnaround allows unis to optimise the learning experience for current students and become increasingly competitive in a global education landscape, minimising disruption and maximising investment as soon as possible.

Want to find out more about how design and build could benefit you?

Speak to the team at Maris