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Design-Build VS. Design-Bid Build

Like every other industry, the construction industry has undergone modernization and evolutionary changes that have increased options for the execution method. Customers can now choose to go with the design bid build process, considered the more traditional approach, or the design-build route, often recognized as a modern delivery method. 

But what does each method entail, and how do you choose between them? In this article, we'll go through the definition of each process and which projects they're best suited for, to help you make an informed decision for your next project. 

Completed building construction


The Design-Build Institute of America defines this construction method as a "method of project delivery in which one entity - the design-build team- works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion." 

What this means is that this method only involves a single source of accountability for the project. The designer, engineer, and general construction contractor - all employed by the same entity - work together from the onset to design and provide recommendations for the project that matches the client's schedule and budget. 

This collaborative approach increases the unity and understanding the general construction manager has of the overall project, which is crucial given they manage the project in its entirety. In addition, the increased understanding of the project's goals by management trickles down to the rest of the team as well - which can aid in customer satisfaction when it comes to unveiling the completed results. 

Additionally, having a single contract streamlines the construction process - resulting in projects being completed by or before the desired date while also meeting or being under the expected budget. 

One of the drawbacks of this method can be the amount of control owners sacrifice when it comes to taking control over the design of the build. Owners have to be very picky about who they hire to execute this project for them, which can require a bit of homework and research on the owner's part. 


The design-bid-build process is more traditional than its counterpart and involves more than one contract. In addition, this method involves breaking down construction projects into numerous steps, starting with the design. 

Owners then request bids from designers or architects to design the project. The owner's contract with the designer is the first contract they can expect to sign during the project. 

The architect/designer works directly with the owner during the design process, giving the owner more input and increased control than other delivery methods. 

Once a firm is selected, the owner and the design team will create the construction documents to attract bids from construction contractors, who can then bid on the job based on the drawings. The bidding process can be one of the longest aspects of the project. This step needs to be accounted for in the project delivery date, as it can take some time for the bids to start coming in. Traditionally, the job is awarded to the lower bidder under a construction general manager. 

Once a construction company's bid is selected, the owner enters into the second contract they'll need for the project's actual construction. The construction general manager from the chosen company will oversee the project and may even contract out subcontractors to finish specialized parts of construction, such as plumbing. 

Although the process may take longer due to the "in-progress" nature of having to take the time to request bids from two different aspects of the project - this competitive bidding process is also what drives costs down. The design-bid-build process is typically more economical than its counterpart due to companies competing for the job and forcing the bids to go down. 


Overall, both methods of project delivery have their benefits and their place. For example, design-bid-builds can be great for customizations and lower costs. Still, design-builds benefit from shorter wait times and collaboration on the project, on top of there only being one contract to manage instead of two or more. 

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, that's why it is essential to figure out which is suitable for your next project. 

Are you considering building out your dream construction project but don't know where to start? Contact Southwest and Midwest Design & Construction to find out how we can help you with your next construction project.