Design-Price-Build Delivery Method


For anyone considering a home construction project or simply seeking residential design services, there are essentially two types of project delivery methods. 1) design-build, where the design team is part of the construction team, or 2) design-bid-build, where the design team is independent from the construction team.

At Hoffmans Architecture, we advise our clients on a blended delivery method, which we call design-price-build. This model is similar to design-build, as the designer and builder still work as a team. The difference is contractual. In the design-price-build model, the owner has separate contracts with the architect (or designer) and builder. This allows the architect to be independence, flexible and provide oversight for the owner during the construction phases of the project. It also allows the builder to provide pricing and constructability expertise during the design phase, which can help reduce unnecessarily costly design decisions and provide budgetary feedback during the various design stages of design.

In the design-price-build model, the builder benefits by having a better understanding of the design goals and product expectations, which can be hard to gauge from a Design-Bid-Build method. The owner benefits by having more pricing information up front and by having more realistic expectations of the final product before the design phase is completed.

Following are a few common project delivery methods used in custom residential construction:

Design-Build (designer on staff)

The design-build model is very popular in the residential construction industry. It streamlines the custom-home product process and can be very cost effective for clients heavily involved in the design process.

Design-build builders typically use a cost-plus contract. A cost-plus contract is not a fixed-price or guaranteed maximum price, but rather a project cost estimate. The actual project cost includes the design services, labor and materials. Typically, the final cost is not determined until the project is complete. For smaller projects, this may be your best model.

The downside can be for larger, more complicated projects or new home construction. Many, but not all, builders don’t have design or architectural staff to guide the design process. These projects can involve a multitude of decisions, conflicting goals, budget constraints and tricky construction details. Without a design expert on board through the process, you can easily run into cost overruns or inferior final product.

Design-Build (designer as sub-contractor)

Not all design-build builders have in-house design staff, but they still provide design-build services by contracting out for design services. This approach allows the builder to choose an appropriate designer for your project. Some projects require an interior designer specializing in kitchens while other projects are better for an architect. These builders need multiple contacts among design professionals to formulate the best team. The downside is contractual. The designer or architect is contracted directly with the builder and not the owner. The owner doesn’t have the benefit of an independent voice to help resolve quality issues or potential conflicts. Most of the time, the design services are reduced to general project design and minimal product selection, and they don’t utilize detailed drawings or specifications that direct sub-contractors executing the design.

Design-Bid-Build (designer & builder independent)

The design-bid-build delivery model is not very common in the residential construction industry. It requires the design to be completed with materials and products selected along with with construction specifications. Once the drawings and specifications are complete, multiple builders competitively bid for the project.

Once a builder is selected, construction starts. The downside to this delivery method is increased design duration and higher fees to produce the work, and it requires owner discipline to finalize design decisions. The owner has to be able to make design decisions early on, and trust their architect (or designer) is making the right decisions. Then, the owner must allow the builder to construct the design with little-to-no changes during construction.