What Is Design-Build?

Design-build is a manner of construction that has become popular in the past twenty years. It is where an owner of a projected new building hires a contractor to build that building. Then the owner and contractor design and build the building. Odd, but for most of the modern age that is not how commercial buildings were built.

The Old Method
For many decades the method of building a commercial building was to hire an architect and have him design the building. Then the architect hires, through a bidding process, the various contractors to build the components of the building like electrical or plumbing. The architect will layout the specifications for the various projects and contractors bid on how much they can do that project for. This manner of construction is called design-bid-build.

The downside to design-bid-build is that nothing starts until the building design is completed. So, a lot of time is lost. There is also the rigidity of the plans. If things do not fit together as the architectural firm planned, there can be problems, or if contractors see a better way to do things, they are tied to the plans. If there are any desired changes during construction that could bring the whole project to a halt. Also, sub-contractors often low-bid just to win the bid, but once they get to the project and the construction is on its way they shamelessly claim they cannot do what is proposed for the price they gave. This upcharge is most often done through a change order, which is a request for a contractor to do something that was not originally planned. Of course, these change orders cost more money.

The New Method
With design-build the construction can start much more quickly because building and design can flow together. While design plans are being finalized the construction area can be leveled for work to begin. Early utilities can begin to be brought into the construction area. The design/build timeframe is shortened which makes it a faster way to get construction done.

There can also be some costs savings with a design-build building. First, the project has a budget that has been established with the general contractor. Any margin is what the design-build contractor earns. So, that contractor will want to get the project completed under budget, so they can make their profit. They can hire any contractors they want to get the job done, but the contractor will make sure any sub-contractors will stay in budget.

Another form of cost savings from a design-build is that as the project continues the contractor (or even sub-contractors) can suggest alternative designs and materials to save money. They can even collaborate to get a project completed quicker and less expensively because they do not have the rigidity of architectural plans where they have no say.

Design-build is a popular form of building construction because it gives the owner say while the construction process is happening. At the same time the owner can work with the builder to get the building as they want it.