Schedule a Consultation

Design-Build vs. Design-Bid-Build

A comparison of the two most common project delivery methods in the construction industry.

Development and building projects are complicated endeavors, with many service providers necessary to bring the project to fruition. There are several project management delivery methods in the construction industry but, in general, there are two primary methods which are most common – Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build.


Design-bid-build is the traditional project delivery used in the construction industry where a Client establishes separate agreements with an Architect (designer) and a Contractor (builder).

The Client engages the Architect first, who brings in consultants and works for several months to assess the property, produce design concepts, and create construction documents for permits. The construction documents prepared include architectural/engineering drawings, specifications, and complex legal documents that manage the relationship between the Client, Architect, and Contractor.

Once the project is ready for permitting, the Client must send the construction document package to bid from as many viable Contractors as possible. During periods of economic growth, there are typically many construction projects in the market and Contractor options may be limited. Once one or more bids are received, the Client must assess the Contractor and bid, ideally selecting the best option to move into construction. At this point in the process, it is very common for construction bids to come back above the Clients budget because the designs were not cost-informed. In this circumstance, the Client must pay the Architect to redesign in an attempt to achieve the necessary cost savings.

When the design and budget are aligned, the Client can move forward with the Contractor into the permitting and construction process. The Contractor then coordinates several subcontractors to complete the work and the Client pays for the Architect to provide consulting (construction administration) services. Because the Architect and Contractor are separate entities with conflicting priorities, it is typical that an adversarial relationship develops between these two parties. Inevitable construction issues and unforeseen circumstances that require changes to budget or schedule become a blame shifting conflict that requires the Client to mitigate.

Ultimately, the design-bid-build process results in extra effort from the Client and wasted time and money.


Design-build is a well-established alternative project delivery where a Client engages in a single agreement with an Architect and Contractor in one entity (design-builder).

The Client has one project team who manages the entire process from start-to-finish, comprehensively guiding the Client through the entire process. The design-builder is responsible for providing all services and managing all consultants and subcontractors. The construction process is planned well in advance, providing adequate time for competitive subcontractor bids and project mobilization with limited risk of Contractor unavailability. The project team is consistent, collaborating with one another within the same office and resolving issues swiftly with clarity. The project design is budget-informed from the start with construction estimates that can reliably inform design decisions.

Ultimately, the design-build process results in less Client effort and saves both time and money.

Advantages of Design-Build

There are a number of advantages to using the design-build method, including:

  • Reduced risk and cost: The design-builder is responsible for both the design and construction of the project, which can help to reduce risk and cost for the owner. This is because the design-builder can coordinate the design and construction phases more effectively, and can identify and mitigate potential risks early in the process.
  • Increased efficiency: The design-build method can be more efficient than the design-bid-build method, as it eliminates the need for the owner to go through the bidding process. This can save time and money, and can help to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.
  • Improved communication and collaboration: The design-builder is responsible for both the design and construction of the project, which can lead to improved communication and collaboration between the owner, the design team, and the construction team. This can help to ensure that the project meets the owner’s needs and expectations.

If you are considering a construction project, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of the design-build method before making a decision. The design-build method can be a good option for projects that require a high level of coordination and collaboration between the design team and the construction team. However, it is important to make sure that you choose a reputable design-builder who has experience with the type of project you are considering.

Recommended Resources

What is Design-Build?

What is Design-Build?

A single contract with the project owner to provide custom design and construction services.