When you as the owner are developing your project, you have some major decisions to make. You need to worry about budget, design, and more while maintaining the operations of any other business you are working with. That’s why you need to decide from the get-go what sort of project delivery method you’re going to utilize.

Project delivery methods are systems that lay out the steps and responsibilities for a project, in legal agreements. It’s a roadmap for who needs to do what, and by when. It helps to set the groundwork for the project through completion, and helps the owner to assign responsibility, to know where to go for answers throughout different stages of the project. The two most-used methods right now are Design-Build, and Design-Bid-Build.


Under Design-Build delivery, the owner develops a conceptual plan for the project, and then typically hires a single entity to perform both design and construction. That entity – usually under the designation of “general contractor” – is then responsible for either performing the processes of design and construction, or for hiring subcontractors to perform those processes. A single entity bears project risk. This is widely recognized as a “turn-key” approach, in that the owner provides the project specifications to the entity, and his next involvement is when they present him with the completed project, ready to go.


In this method, the owner signs separate contracts with the architect and general contractor. The project begins by having the architect produce the design, and acquire any construction permit documents as needed. They are responsible for delivering 100-percent complete design documents. The project is then sent out for bidding to contractors, usually through the owner or an owner’s representative. The owner must then decide the right fit for the construction process, and award them the build contract. The contractor is then responsible for delivering the construction phase, including hiring sub-contractors, sourcing materials, and every-day oversight on the construction site. The owner, however, bears all risk associated with the completeness of the design documents.

Major Differences

The key difference between the two is simply that, as the owner, with Design-Build you deal with one entity, while Design-Bid-Build can be one, two, or more entities involved. This will always add on extra time – time for communications, time for the bid process itself, and other areas. It also means having to keep track of more contacts in the case of Design-Bid-Build.

Also, Design-Bid-Build involves bidding out construction to a separate entity, while Design-Build presents the entire cost at the beginning of the project. Sometimes this is a good thing, as you as the owner get one cost and the design-build entity has to stick with it. However, it means that they are likely building in wiggle room in their quote, and you may be able to get a better bottom-line price through the Design-Bid-Build process.

Pros and Cons

One of the oft-cited advantages of Design-Build over Design-Bid-Build is the integration and collaboration in the design phase, which can then ease or eliminate potential pains during construction. With both sides working together from the start, the build side can provide input on materials and processes at the drafting table. This can eliminate change orders from popping up down the line. It can also allow the build team to put in early orders for materials, potentially trimming time off of the construction schedule. In some cases, it can even allow for construction to begin while the design is still being finalized.

As the parties in a Design-Build project are experienced in working together over numerous past projects, this can help to improve the quality of the deliverable. As noted in this study comparing the two methods, Design-Build teams tended to have lower difficulty in project start-up, fewer call-backs for issues after project completion, and they did a better job in meeting project needs.

Another point could be looked at as a pro or a con, depending on the owner. With Design-Bid-Build, there is more control of the owner over the design documents. However, that also means there is more responsibility. Some owners desire input, and this grants it. However, it means that any potential change orders will have to be run by the owner or owner’s agent.

With Design-Build, you need to have a well-defined scope for the project from the outset. Because the company you are hiring will design and build, they are setting their costs accordingly. Deviating from the scope may bring about contractual headaches. Under a Design-Bid-Build project, you as the owner can change that scope in between the design and the bid processes. However, you also have to deal with the fact that you can’t assign construction costs until you award the contract, meaning it is harder to nail down budgets.

Checks and balances are sometimes ignored when the Design-Build system is utilized, which can also effect the quality of the delivered project. The design team is working for the contractor, so there could be instances where the design side has to weigh the needs of the client versus the needs of the contractor they are answerable to. Thos instances don’t always work out to benefit the client. Not having an advocate for the owner inside the project can be a major hazard.

Making Your Decision

It may seem that the Design-Build path has an advantage over the Design-Bid-Build path, but that may not mean it is right for you as an owner. The key thing to remember is that you need to choose a method of delivery that works best for you. Take into consideration factors such as:

  • Your own capacity and technical capability to monitor the process
  • Individual project drivers that are most important to you and your company
  • What sort of sensitivity you and your project have for cost and schedule escalations
  • To what degree you are comfortable with bearing any project risk

The Design-Bid-Build method can bring benefits, particularly on simple or predictable projects, or when cost savings is more important than expediency. It’s also great for owners who desire as much control as possible over their project. But for many, the Design-Build path is an excellent fit.

Here at CDG Builders, we can handle the aspects of your project. Either as part of your design or build team in a Design-Bid-Build project, or as your primary provider in the Design-Build role, we have a wealth of experience to draw from. Reach out and connect with us – we want to be a part of building your beautiful space for today and tomorrow.