What Is Design-Build and How Should You Use It?

Design Build Process

How does design-build work?

In a design-build project, the project owner hires a design-builder who manages the entire project and contracts with any necessary subcontractors, such as architects and engineers.

A design-build construction company might employ outside architectural and engineering firms as sub-consultants or have in-house architects and engineers. A design-build project’s lead company will also employ any required construction subcontractors and specialists, such as plumbers and electricians.

With this structure, the owner and the design-builder can collaborate more effectively, which could lead to quicker completion and simpler communication. For instance, the design-builder can assess design plans as the architects and engineers develop them and can speak with the owner about potential costs.

It is recommended that project owners who are thinking about using design-build work with a design-builder who has experience with this kind of project delivery. Even though owners and contractors are constructing more projects in this manner, not every company is familiar with this technique. Having an experienced team is beneficial because it is a slightly different way of working and necessitates effective project management and communication.

What is design-build?

Construction project delivery known as “design-build” streamlines the contracts under a single designated point of contact known as the “design-builder.” Compared to the alternative, the design-bid-build method, many people believe design-build to be a more contemporary method of project delivery. By working with just one company during a design-build project, the project owner can typically speed up the regular construction processes.

Design-build can be used for projects of any size, from minor renovations to full building construction. In both private and public projects across the United States, the use of this strategy is becoming more widespread.

Steps of a design-build project

The team will adhere to these steps, making the design-build process fairly straightforward:

1. Design-builder selection

The project owner will first select the builder or design-build firm to oversee the project. It’s critical to assess your project’s potential scope as well as your needs at this time. A large firm wouldn’t be required if the project was small. A company with experience working on a project that size will also be necessary for a large project.

Determining whether the company you are considering has all the necessary positions on staff or whether they will need to subcontract or hire sub-consultants can also be useful. Although there are benefits and drawbacks to using outside contractors, a project might proceed more smoothly if the design-build company has a full staff that can cooperate.

When examining bids, bear in mind that the final cost may change as the project develops. However, since the design-builder can offer their opinion on design ideas, you will probably have more control over the project’s cost as it progresses if you choose this method.

2. Pre-construction preparation

All team members will review the project’s specifics and gather any information required at this point. The project owners team first meets to go over the requirements and parameters of the project. The project owner’s vision, the budget, and any other crucial information should be well understood by the design-builder, including the design and construction teams.

The architects and engineers may need to take existing floor plans and schematics into consideration if the project plan modifies an existing building. The team might need surveyors to look at the site and give feedback if the plan is to build a new building. Each team member will also want to be aware of any relevant regulations or licenses that might have an impact on construction.

3. Design

The development of BIM and tools like Revit have made it possible for architects and many different types of engineers to collaborate at the same time. With these programs, the engineers and architects frequently save the building’s model in the cloud and update it in real-time so that other teams can see changes as they are made. Since the team can use digital tools to make sure all of their designs are in sync with one another, this prevents expensive redraws for everyone.

The design-builder can provide the owner with an estimate of the cost for any features or changes to the project that an architect or engineer suggests. One of the biggest benefits of design-build projects is that the contractor who performs this function doesn’t show up until the architects and engineers have completed the design, as opposed to design-bid-build.

In order for the rest of the team to review the designs before final delivery, architects and engineers deliver them at 30%, 60%, and 90% completion.

4. Construction

In order for construction to start as soon as the design is finished, the design-builder frequently starts site preparation while design is still ongoing. Depending on the project, some parts of the construction may even begin before the experts complete the design. With the aid of any required subconsultants or subcontractors, the design-builder will implement the designs during this stage of the project.

5. Post-construction

Following completion of the project, the design-builder meets with the owner to review the finished product and make sure everything is done to their satisfaction. At this point, the design-builder informs the project owner of the operation of any complex systems that the contractors installed.

For these systems, the design-builder may also offer documentation and training materials. The project is finished when the team completes post-construction and the project owner is satisfied with the outcome.

Benefits of the design-build process

A design-build strategy has a number of advantages over other project delivery methods, including the following:

Better collaboration

A more centralized collaboration is made possible by having a primary project leader who works closely with the owner and the rest of the team. The design-builder can facilitate team communication about the project and break down any barriers that may exist between various groups.

Individual point of responsibility

Since there is only one contract between the owner and the design-builder, it is always clear who is in charge of the project. This makes it simpler for the owner and the design-builder because it is clear who is in charge of the project’s progress. It might be difficult to figure out why, for instance, if construction costs in a design-bid-build project are significantly higher than anticipated due to the lack of a single designated overseer.

Faster delivery

A team can complete design-build projects faster than design-bid-build projects because design-build is a streamlined process. This is especially true when several groups are working simultaneously, such as when construction starts while design is still in progress. Additionally, unlike in design-bid-build projects, there is no delay between the conclusion of the design phase and the start of the construction phase while the owner solicits construction firm bids.

Lower costs

The price of finishing a project in this way is typically less expensive due to the effectiveness and speed of design-build projects. Because the entire team can identify issues that they might not otherwise find until after construction has started, the owner can avoid any costly design flaws. Due to hiring everyone at once through one firm, a design-build project may cost more initially, but by the time the team completes the project, there should be cost savings.


What is the meaning of design-build?

The design-build method has some significant drawbacks, such as the need for a high level of communication and trust. There is no competitive bidding taking place. Design-bid-build gives time for value engineering and more economical methods, which can lengthen the project’s overall timeline.

What is design-build vs design-bid-build?

Design-build is also known as design/construct and single-source responsibility. As a result, the owner only manages one contract and has one point of contact. Together, the designer and contractor provide unified project recommendations to fit the owner’s schedule and budget from the outset.

What are the disadvantages of design-build?

The five main steps of the design-build process are team selection, project planning, design, GMP/bidding, and construction. Most of the time, these actions will take place in order, though not always independently of one another. The project planning, design, and bidding phases may overlap.

What is the difference between design-build and EPC?

Simply having just one contract is what distinguishes design-build agreements. A minimum of two contracts are included in all other types of standard construction contracts. Design-build is often described as “single-source” or “sole-source” contracting.

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