10 Reasons Why the Design-Build Delivery Method Works

Authored By: Steve Savoie Design Process Leader

Did you know that design-build construction accounts for over 40% of all non-residential construction? There is a reason for that. Unlike the design-bid-build delivery method or utilizing a preselected construction management, the design-build delivery method brings both design and construction functions together as one team in a single contractual entity to the owner. This is a very clear, undeniable advantage as compared to using a construction manager where there is no contractual relationship between the team of designers and the builder. There are several additional benefits to utilizing design-build for both new construction and renovations.

1. Teamwork:

The design-build team and the owner are in this together, and they have the same goal – to complete a successful project that meets or exceeds the owner’s expectations. This team of designers and design-assist consultants is established right at the very beginning of the design process. When projects encounter challenges (and there are always challenges), pointing fingers is not an option. Instead, the design-build team is solely accountable for having one single contract with the owner. Thus, when challenges occur with design, budget, or construction issues, everyone rolls up their sleeves and works on solutions together as a team.

2. Total accountability:

One entity, the design-builder, is accountable for the entire project, including the quality of the design, how the end result looks, the total costs, and how quickly construction can be completed. When the same group that designs the project also builds the project, much more attention is given to the details, including designing to the target budget, frequent estimate updates, and design constructibility reviews. The costs of all aspects of the project are taken into account early on in the process; all design fees, anticipated construction costs, and market condition forecasts. As the design updates, the design-builder will update the cost estimate in real-time. This allows frequent evaluation by the owner to pursue additional scope or rethink a current solution. All this data is transparently shared with the owner by the design-builder at all steps along the way.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual to hear about situations with design-bid-build or construction manager at risk where the cost of the project is much more than the designer said it would be or the construction manager was not involved during the design. This often results in missing the target budget. This can cause intense stress during the project resulting in a financial burden or delayed schedule per needed re-designing. Such a scenario is unacceptable in the design-build world. Design-build focuses on results and owner satisfaction.

Performance Measure Design-Build vs. CMR Design-Build vs. Design-Bid-Build
Cost Growth 2.4% less 3.8% less
Schedule Growth 3.9% less 1.7% less
Construction Speed 13% faster 36% faster

*Source: Design-Build Data Sourcebook, 2021

3. Continuity:

A design-build firm is involved in the project from initial concept to completion, which adds an inherent efficiency and effectiveness to the process. Clear and effective communication channels are established before early concepts are created. This allows a streamlined process throughout the duration of design and construction. Design-build best practices utilize an integrated project leader that leads the design team during design and carries forward to be the point person during construction as well. This integrated project leader sees the project from cradle to grave and becomes the glue that holds the team together as well as reliable communication with the owner.

4. Expertise:

There is a tremendous advantage to working with a design-build firm with an established in-house team and design-build partners. This allows your design-builder to be able to think both like a designer and a builder. Design-build team leaders are licensed design professionals with advanced formal training and applicable project experience. A qualified design-builder brings a wealth of construction experience to the table at key checkpoints during the design phase. Understanding how early design decisions can impact the budget or construction schedule is a key trait of a skilled design-builder. An experienced design-build team is an expert in general construction and building systems and has strong partnerships with reliable and pre-qualified subcontractors.

5. Professional guides:

There are stories of design and construction projects getting out of hand. However, design and construction should not be chaotic or stressful. The design-builder acts as a trusted advisor to the owner throughout the design and construction process, guiding the way to the best possible outcome. Design-build provides a best-practice process from beginning to end.

6. Owner Involvement:

Design-build operates under the assumption that the owner wants to be an active participant in their building project. The owner can be assured that their project goals will be accomplished by being involved in the process. Such involvement gives the owner a lasting sense of pride in their project. Unlike design-bid-build, the design-build process empowers the owner to hand-select pre-qualified design consultants and subcontractors. This avoids the all-too-common circumstance of ‘being stuck with the low bidder’ who is underperforming or may not have the owner’s best interest in mind. All bids and pricing are transparent to the owner; therefore, the owner is informed about costs and alternatives. A qualified design-builder anticipates all potential hidden costs to provide the agreed-upon design within the target budget.

7. Collaboration:

Unlike projects that are delivered using the construction-manager-at-risk model, where the designers and contractors have separate agreements with the owner and have no partnership with each other, design-build removes all finger-pointing. The design-builder has one master agreement with the owner. With design-build, the owner retains total control over the project, and the team is there to empower and collaborate from the initial concept to completion. This creates a win-win and produces a genuinely collaborative environment.

8. Open, Honest, and Frequent Communication:

All pricing is completely transparent in design-build. This allows the owner to make educated real-time decisions during the design and construction. Other delivery methods often hide costs or wait until an issue arises before budget concerns occur. Design-build creates transparent communication environments not because people say what everyone wants to hear but because they say what everyone needs to hear. Through clear communication, the budget is defined early on, becoming the driver for key decisions and agreements for the entire project.

9. Time Savings:

Maintaining or exceeding the construction schedule is paramount for a successful project. Design-build construction involves managing hundreds of timelines that need to coordinate in lockstep. Design-build creates opportunities for the owner to contemplate major design decisions, ask questions, get real-time feedback and make proactive decisions that can impact schedule goals. All key stakeholders are at the table from the beginning of the process. Anything the team can do to avoid taking steps backward will lead to better, faster, and more cost-effective results. The design-build system is highly adaptive and responsive during construction. Big decisions can be revisited throughout without the added cost and time delays created by change orders due to design oversight or gaps in plans and specifications, often seen in design-bid-build and construction manager at-risk delivery models.

10. Cost savings:

Inherent to the design-build model is cost savings. Project cost savings have been well studied and documented, as noted in the DBIA table above. Along with inherent cost savings, the project is completed faster and without change orders.

There are several reasons why the design-build delivery method works so well for new construction and renovation projects. To learn more about design-build and how it could be a solution for your next project, start a conversation with your local Performance Services representative today!

Ready to start building with us?

Contact us for an onsite, no-obligation assessment. With over 20 years of experience creating optimal environments, we have the expertise to help with your next project.

Similar Resources

Construction Delivery Methods Benefits

How Does Construction Manager At-Risk Differ from Design-Build?

The History of Design-Build

The History of Design-Build

Understanding Design-Build

Understanding Design-Build

Real Time Web Analytics