Design-Build vs Design-Bid-Build - What is better for Residential Projects

Understand the deference between Design-Build vs Design-Bid-Build project delivery method, and which one is best for your residential development project.

There are many forms of project delivery, which is the process of how a project is completed from beginning to end. The different methods vary depending on the involvement of the project's timeline, budget and owner's involvement. Other priorities can also influence the project delivery method as general risks to take, whether a collaborative team is important, or if looking for the most competitive construction bids. Here you will find a comparison between design-build vs design-bid-build.


Design-Bid-Build project delivery

The traditional method is Design-Bid-Build (DBB), which, as the name suggests, begins with the design from an architecture firm, then goes through a bidding phase to look for a contractor and is later built to completion by the awarded contractor. In essence, the design and construction are split between entities with separate contracts and responsibilities.

OPPORTUNITIES | What to like

May result in the lowest Bid
When the project design is ready for bidding,
Has the architect as construction advocate
Minimizes the owner's involvement in any conflicts as it has one point of contact. At the same time, conflicts between the architect and builder are reduced as they work collaboratively as a team to resolve any issues.

DISADVANTAGES | What to look for

Longest time overall
Has a linear step by step phase, meaning that all the design documents must be finalized before bidding and later building the project.
Higher risks
The developer or owner has two contracts and must coordinate both teams (designer and builder), opening itself to mistakes in the transmittal of information, which may then result in change orders or other bigger problems.
Construction cost defined at later stages
Without a contractor involved in the early stages, the architect may over-design elements that may go over-budget and known only after the bidding process; this may require some re-designing and re-bidding, adding more time to the overall project.
Susceptible to Change Owner
With separate entities, there is less communication and collaboration between the design and building team, resulting in increased susceptivity of change orders and finger-pointing becoming controversial during construction. Additionally, the design team's documents will be heavily scrutinized for errors & omissions looking to create more Change Orders and increase the construction cost.


Design-Build project delivery

The Design-Build (DB), on the other hand, is an alternative project delivery method that has grown in popularity in the last decade. With this project delivery method, there is one entity in charge of the whole project and under a single contract with the developer or owner. The Design-Build entity can be a team of architects and builders for different firms, but the owner only deals with one project manager, one contract, and one unified flow of work from design all the way through completion.

As in the traditional method, Design-Build can be used on many types of projects and can be very successful if executed properly. This approach to implementation is becoming more popular because for both owner, and AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) professionals. The joint effort saves money and time by transforming the relationship between designers and builders into an alliance that fosters collaboration and teamwork and gives the owner one entity to hold responsible if something goes wrong.

OPPORTUNITIES | What to like

One point of contact
You, the developer, only need to coordinate and deal with one entity for the whole project for any questions or concerns. As the relationship will be long, we recommend doing a zero-commitment Feasibility Study before hiring the architect or Design-Build entity
Reduced risk
Minimizes the owner's involvement in any conflicts as it has one point of contact. At the same time, conflicts between the architect and builder are reduced as they work collaboratively as a team to resolve any issues.
Faster overall delivery
By eliminating the bidding process, the project saves a significant amount of time. Additionally, the construction can begin prior to finalizing the design details, this saves as much as 33% in the overall project completion.
Collaborative and cost-effective
By designing with the contractor's input from the early design stages, the project is designed with the most cost-effective materials and methods, achieving the budget and saving the risk of having to re-design the project to meet the budget.

DISADVANTAGES | What to look for

No advocates for the Owner
As the design team works as one entity, the Owner has to take decisions and check the quality of the work by himself. For developers, this usually isn't the case as they usually have someone assigned to the project who does this task, whatever the project delivery.
Lower bidding transparency
By eliminating the bidding process, the project may result in higher prices than if it was competitively bid. However, by having the contractor in the early stages of the design, the Project's budget is usually met.


COSTMay result in a lower bid when the design team knows the latest means and methods of construction.Builder is involved in the early stages of design and gives feedback on the means and methods of construction, resulting in a cost-effective design
TIMELinear steps of the project, longer time overall.Design Development and Construction Documents phase may overlap with the Bidding and Construction phases.
RISKDeveloper has two contracts to manage and must coordinate design and building team separatelyDeveloper contracts one entity that if fully responsible for the complete project.
DESIGNMay have better design, as the construction cost aren't usually fully taken into account during the design phase.May have good design, without sacrificing costs and risks as it is part of the design process.
Design-Build vs Design-Bid-Build time and cost comparison

Explanation Video

Video by Gluck+ Architect Led Design-Build firm

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Matias Daroch

I came to the US as a Chilean Architect and developer wanting to invest in residential projects. Soon, I found myself learning zoning and building codes in-depth, and understanding them better to maximize my return on investment. Not very long after, I began working and studying until I got my architectural license to practice in the US, and founded MIK Architecture to help other developers get more value for their projects.