Why Choose Design-Build Instead of Traditional Project Management?


Why Choose Design-Build Instead of Traditional Project Management?

So, you’ve decided to build a new office or commercial space. The big decision you will need to make concerns which is the best method to get your project from concept to construction. Various project delivery workflows can take different paths, each with benefits and challenges, and some that incorporate nuances of each system. Here we will look at the 2 most common methods that a business owner can take when starting a new construction project – design-bid-build and the design-build project management.

Traditional Project Management

As the project stakeholder using a traditional design-bid-build construction model, you will be tasked with finding and working directly with a number of entities, which include at a minimum the following service providers and tradesmen.

      Architectural consultant to complete the architectural and structural design of the new facility

      MEP design/installation services to specify and layout the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing installations

      Specialty Consultants such as civil engineering and landscape designers

      Interior designers to designate fixtures, furnishings, flooring, and wall textures/patterns

      General Contractor (GC) to take complete control of day-to-day construction management

      Sub-contractors reporting to GC after winning the bid to provide trade services

This traditional method of project management involves many different players, and it’s the primary stakeholder (or the owner of the new facility) that will incur full responsibility for any material or financial losses during construction, including poor quality installations, costly field changes, missed deadlines, and the scheduling conflicts that result. The snowball effect begins as trade crews sit idle, the schedule becomes bottlenecked, material deliveries must be delayed, and the general contractor is tasked with covering his losses – by any means necessary.

Of course, if contractual obligations were not met, the owner may not incur a loss – but will certainly have to prove during litigation or mediation that the contracted services as stated, were not provided. The downfall to this traditional method of building is that each phase of the project from landscaping and professional flooring installations to plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems – is viewed as a separate design/installation entity under the supervision of the general contractor (who reports only to you – the owner).

The GC has the power to make best practice decisions for all portions of the construction or systems installation – and can overrule the expertise of trade subcontractors.

Other challenges with the design-bid-build project delivery method is when conflict between architect and general contractor arises. The architect is married to his concept and final design for your new building, while the general contractor is focused on a timely delivery, staying within the project budget, and making a profit.

Also consider, the low bid procurement system is open to questionable performance by trade service providers who also must make a profit. The Design-Build method is a better way to delivery construction projects and will overcome many deficiencies in the design-bid-build method.


The Design-Build Project Delivery

The design-build project delivery method was conceived as a more efficient method for building commercial and industrial facilities. This engineering and construction workflow will transfer the entire project design, construction, and installation phases of the new facility under the helm of one service provider – the design-build firm or AEC (architectural, engineering and construction firm) which operates as the “owner’s representative”. The design/build method makes it easy to work with one group who understands the owner’s vision and goals when building a new office and/or commercial space.

Design/build eliminates the bidding process and multiple contracts while putting the owner under contract with one single entity that delivers a complete construction project – including design and engineering. The same firm will provide for and oversee all construction processes up to completion. Expect your design/build firm to handle the following:

      Quote the project cost and ensure the project budget/costs as presented, before construction begins. This eliminates the many the surprises or cost overruns while allowing the owner to maintain the power to approve any material substitutions or construction changes.

      Provides all architectural design and engineering documentation to meet project requirements upon approval of the owner and is the primary communication between supply vendors and trade subcontractor such as millwork, plumbing, interior design, electrical and HVAC design documentation.

      Stays in constant contact with the owner regarding any major field changes from the original design, any scheduling conflicts that will affect the budget, manpower deficiencies, or material substitutions which could affect project design, timeline, or budget.

      Acts as the general contractor, hiring all skilled trade service providers and unskilled manpower needed and takes total charge of the day-to-day construction operations and supervision of all subcontractors working on the project

      Will obtain all building permits and oversees all legal obligations, including building code inspections.

      Will take responsibility for all the financial contracts with subcontractors and manpower scheduling conflicts that may result from unforeseen weather or construction events.


Advantages of the Design-Build Project

The major advantage of design/build projects is the ease of working with a dedicated team of designers/builders from one professional firm, compared to working with multiple contractors, designers, and firms. Your design-build team provides a seamless, one-stop solution without the chaos and hassles of juggling multiple trades or relying on the general contractor to stay true to the architects design. Other benefits include:

Saves Project Management Costs

When you have one skilled team responsible for carrying out and providing a suitable remedy for all contractual concerns of the project owner, the costs of managing and coordinating multiple parties is eliminated. Your design-build firm takes responsibility for hiring qualified tradesmen, all manpower scheduling, construction equipment and material acquisition, and the daily construction tasks.

Ensures An Efficient and Effective Workflow

Design/build is a streamlined construction process. From start to finish, your one point of contact will provide a project quote and a project plan with complete information on how they will turn your construction goals into reality.  The quoted cost to the owner relies heavily on the performance of the design build firm to stay within budget and complete the project on time. They are motivated to eliminate wasted time and wasted resources to guarantee a profit for the design build company.

Less Risk for the Owner

Their expertise includes a broad knowledge of the complete architectural, engineering, and construction process – and uses that strong foundation to make sound building decisions and coordinate effective material sourcing. The contract calls for the owner to assume less risk, by allowing the AEC firm to assume more responsibility and control. The client is as active a participant as they desire to be.

Takes Advantage of Existing Partnerships

Your design/build firm has worked with and relies on established relationships between construction material suppliers, equipment vendors, and skilled tradesmen/subcontractors that have demonstrated trustworthy business ethics and have a reputation for using both time and manpower effectively. A design/build firm stands behind their work and the work of the crews they hire to complete your project.



A design-build firm will always work on behalf of the client – and isn’t held under the thumb of suppliers or construction groups.

Contrary to being left out of the construction loop, you can expect to be involved with not only approving the design concept of the new structure, but also the intricate details like time frames, total costs, payment arrangements, and how additional costs due to unforeseen circumstances are handled.

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