Project delivery methods: Why design-build is better than the traditional design-bid-build

Space Refinery
April 30, 2024
Biophilic design, focus on productivity and collaboration by Space Refinery

What are the alternatives to the traditional design-bid-build or work with architects?

Every construction project is an endeavor on its own.

Constructing, renovating, and refurbishing buildings or structures is complex as it involves different stakeholders, financial risks, and legal requirements. There are a few project delivery methods for construction projects, but design-build (D&B) and design-bid-build (DBB) are the two most common. Even though they sound similar, they have completely different frameworks.

So, what's the best approach for your project? Let's take a closer look…

Traditional project delivery systems

When constructing or renovating using a traditional project delivery method, like DBB, the owner first hires an architect or an engineer to create a design for the project. From there, that design is presented to contractors who start bidding. Most owners choose a contractor with the lowest bid to complete the project in the most economic way. The client or owner must manage the entire budget, as each contractor and subcontractor works and charges as separate entities. 

Owners working with multiple contractors means managing several relationships and deadlines at once
Working with several contractors creates logistical issues

The design-bid-build approach comes with certain challenges, such as:

  • Upfront costs: Clients pay for the design phase upfront before they know the actual construction costs. 
  • Timeline delays: Next stage can’t move forward until the previous step is complete. If one stakeholder causes a delay, the project's timeline is set back. 
  • Minimal collaboration: The builder has no input in the design stage and usually has to stick to the original plan or negotiate any changes to the design. This can cause further costs and extended time to deliver.

Design-build: More than an alternative

On the other side, the design-build method solves many issues of the DBB model explained above. The critical difference is that design-build (D&B) puts everyone on the same team from the beginning.

Instead of a project owner, D&B projects are led by a general contractor who acts as a project manager connecting the client with designers, architects, builders, and other contractors. The general contractor has an in-depth understanding of the entire process and management skills to guide all the teams, ensuring everyone is equally involved in the design process.

With the D&B approach, each stakeholder shares their knowledge of systems, technologies, and materials and discusses the best solution to help deliver the project as successful as possible. Regarding finances, D&B budgets are more manageable than the DBB model because the client and team have transparent pricing information during the entire design phase.

A study at the University of Texas at Austin on the performance of design-build and design-bid-build projects on U.S. Naval facilities examined the time and cost growth of 38 D&B and 39 DBB projects. "The results showed that design-build projects took less time, had less cost growth, and were less expensive to build than DBB projects."

Owners working with a design and build studio deal with only one contractor
The simplicity of working with a design and build studio

Here are a few key advantages of the design-build method:

  • Reduced risk: The design and construction teams work together from the start of the project to complete a design that meets client's needs and stays within compliance and budget parameters. The collaborative approach reduces changes, miscommunications, and delayed orders - everything that can mess up timelines and hinder budgets. 
  • Higher quality: Even if the project stays within the budget and schedule, it still needs to meet the end-user's needs. Because it's well-planned in advance, the D&B method requires shorter times of actual build work, meaning less hassle for the clients. 
  • Faster delivery systems: D&B projects usually flow from one phase to the next, but some steps may overlap, which helps speed up the project timeline.
  • Risk management: Unlike the traditional methods, the client isn't responsible for any problems that may arise. The D&B team is responsible for resolving any issues during the design or construction process, making them accountable for any deviations.
  • Transparent pricing: Scheduling, possible efficiencies, risks, and hidden costs are addressed during the design, enabling better choices and saving money. 

Moving into a new office for Nodalview's team in Brussels was a complex decision.

Why we believe in the design-build approach

Decades ago, when companies had hundreds of employees with different skills, the traditional design-bid-build process worked well. However, due to the separation of the design and build parts, DBB projects are harder to coordinate, leading to cost increases, timeline changes, and overall miscommunication between stakeholders. Starting a project with debatable bids from competing construction firms, always hiring new (sub)contractors, and altering requirements and project goals make any project a nightmare to start with.

At Space Refinery, we believe design-build is the best and most efficient method. Based on collaboration, transparency, and efficient communication, thanks to this simplified approach, we can easily translate your specific needs into a tailored design concept. We work closely with our network of trusted partners to realize the project within budget and time constraints.

Our clients are highly involved and participate in both design and construction decisions. Without their input, our work would be incomplete.

Here are the essential four stages of our design-build principle:

  1. Understanding your goals: In this phase, we talk about your mission, people, goals, and constraints. Thanks to research and brainstorming sessions, we understand better your needs and requirements. 
  1. Designing with you: We start creating the concept and sharing our ideas so we align on the vision. We gather your feedback and apply it as we develop the final design before the construction stage.
  1. Building and furnishing: Once you approve the design, we shift into the next gear and start making it a reality. During the construction phase, we hire reliable specialists to ensure our ideas' execution goes smoothly.
  1. Moving in: We personalize the space by adding furniture, color, plants, and magic details, so your workspace truly comes to life. As we do the final touches, the new workspace is ready to become an interactive hub for your team.

We understand different projects require different methods, and we strongly advise you to use the most suitable approach for YOUR construction project. The answer depends on your priorities and your engagement throughout the process. If you want minimal commitment, design-bid-build might be a better option. If you want a more collaborative approach and actively participate in the project, then design-build is the way to go.

If you opt for the design-build method, the only thing left to do is choose an experienced partner you can trust.

Check out how our design & build approach and steps we take to deliver successful projects, regardless of size or budget.

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