Architect-led Design-Build – Pro’s and Con’s


Design-Build is the  project delivery method where the design and construction aspects are performed under a single contract with a single entity. A single source is responsible for both designing and building the project (thus the name).

One of the oldest forms of construction (the “master builder” approach), Design-Build continues to grow in popularity because of its many benefits:

  • Owner’s risk is minimized with single-source responsibility.
  • Schedule is reduced with the design and construction phases overlapping, and bidding phase eliminated.
  • Costs are evaluated constantly as construction personnel are engaged early in the process.

In all fairness, Design-Build does have some issues:

  • Design-Build does not usually make use of competitive bidding (no competitive bid for GC, but subcontracts can be bid)
  • Subjective selection process.
  • Difficult to coordinate properly for publicly funded projects.

For privately funded projects, it seems to me that ALL of the “cons” are outweighed by the “pros” IF the Client has a better-than-average level of TRUST in the Design-Builder.  And, trust is noticeably lacking in today’s economic climate.

The “design-builder” has, in recent history, been the general contractor.  However, in a growing number of cases, the Design-Builder can also be the design professional (the Architect or Engineer).

In our experience, a bi-product of the design collaboration process between the Architect and the Owner is the significant amount of trust that builds in the relationship.  When performed correctly, the design process demonstrates that the Architect has the Owner’s (and the project’s) best interests at heart.  That trust can compel the Owner to request that the Architect consider building the project in addition to designing it.  (That has happened to us on more than one occasion.)

Taken a step further, the Architect becomes the Design-Builder, and is the single-source for the entire project.

(Let me pause here to say this about licensing regulations:  Laws vary from state to state on this, but in North Carolina, generally speaking, anyone who contracts to build a building (even Architects and Engineers) must be a licensed general contractor.  Architects are prohibited from simply hiring a general contracting company to build their projects for an owner.  In order to provide Architect-led Design-Build services, Architects have to create a separate entity and become licensed general contractors, as is the case with us.  So there are some licensing hurdles to clear.)

Even in this down economy, our Design-Build entity is experiencing growth.  A significant portion of our business over the past couple of years has been Architect-led Design-Build.  This is no coincidence.  Our Clients have experienced the horror of Design-Bid-Build, and long for an easier, quicker, cleaner method.  I firmly believe that by allowing the Architect to provide single-source responsibility for the project – design and construction – the Client has a greater chance of obtaining a successful project.  Our recent history states this as fact.

One thought on “Architect-led Design-Build – Pro’s and Con’s

  1. Pingback: Design-Build Projects | |

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