Design-Build Approach Reshaping Delivery of Construction Projects

Top View of a Technical Engineer Working on His Blueprints, Drawing Plans, Using Desktop Computer. Various Useful Items Lying on his Table.

In recent years, construction project management has changed in favor of a streamlined process that minimizes friction, centralizes responsibility, and increases focus on quality and completion. The shift may benefit everyone involved.

Traditionally, construction projects have involved project owners’ hiring the architect/designer and contractor separately. Under this approach, the project owner requests a bid for the design of the project from an architectural firm. Once a firm is decided upon, the project owner draws up a contract up with the design firm. The project owner and design team then solicit bids from construction contractors for the build, with a separate contract drawn up with the construction firm that won the project.

Essentially, under the traditional approach, there are two different contracts (or more if there are multiple designers involved, such as landscape architects, interior designers, etc.) drawn up between the designer and contractor for the project. Too often this approach tends to establish an adversarial relationship between the two parties regarding responsibility for issues such as scheduling delays, change orders and cost overruns. When this occurs, the project owner is caught in the crossfire between the designer and the contractor.

A Simplified Project Delivery Approach: A Single Contract for Design and Construction

Over the years, increasingly more project owners and contractors have begun using a design-build approach to help streamline deliverables and address potential issues that arise when everyone is not on the same page and working together as a team. With the design-build project delivery, the project owner contracts the job with one entity that is responsible for managing the project in its entirety. This is led by the construction contractor, typically the general contractor or design-builder, who collaborates with the design and construction teams.

Because the design-builder assumes total project responsibility – from design to costs to scheduling – this approach saves the owner time and reduces designer/contractor conflicts, as they are one, cohesive team. Furthermore, the design-build approach fosters collaboration and offers greater cost certainty, a shorter project timeline, custom