Commercial Construction

Design Build: Myth vs. Fact

Recent research predicts that design-build will continue to grow over the next three years, contributing to almost half of all construction spending by 2026, despite current industry challenges and market instability. Even with its growth, there are misconceptions about design-build. Here, we dispel these myths:

myth vs facts sign with arrows in between words

MYTH: Design-Build Isn’t Suitable for architects

FACT: By adhering to Design-Build Best Practices, architects maintain a key and continuous role throughout the project, warranting recognition for their substantial contributions. This approach empowers architects to produce outstanding and innovative projects. Moreover, this method focuses on designing to construct, not designing to bid. architects collaborate with a particular contractor throughout the project design and construction stages, instead of designing for a builder yet to be chosen.

MYTH: Design-Build Isn’t a Good Process for the Builder

FACT: Design-build empowers the builder to contribute to the design process in direct collaboration with architects. It promotes early engagement with key trade partners, stimulates the consideration of alternative materials and manufacturing techniques, and opens avenues for the incorporation of groundbreaking technologies. The contractor’s role extends beyond merely following the plans and specifications, and they are anticipated to devise strategies for the most efficient construction of the project.

MYTH: Owners Have No Control in a Design-Build Project

FACT: A properly executed design-build project engages the owners from inception to completion. The design-build team has a single point of accountability, streamlining the owner’s ability to manage details, express concerns, and implement changes. The collaborative approach of design-build ensures the owner’s involvement in all project points. The expectation is for the owner to actively participate and make prompt decisions, which increases the chances of meeting the owner’s and stakeholders’ expectations.

designer designing a city digitally

MYTH: Design-Build Means Loss of Design Control & Flexibility

FACT: In design-build projects, owners actively collaborate with the entire team to achieve the best design. For instance, in Progressive Design-Build, owners and the design-builder collaborate from the outset to progressively refine the initial project design, which includes setting the performance requirements. Regardless of the approach, the owner and the design-builder work closely during all stages of design and construction, ensuring continuous communication and trust. This fosters alignment between the owner and the design-builder, ensuring the final design meets the project objectives.

One-on-one or proprietary meetings, a crucial aspect of the design-build process, are confidential sessions with the shortlisted design-builders. These meetings are key to successful design development, allowing the design to be guided from the earliest phases. The amount of control and flexibility that will be passed along with roles won’t diminish, there will just be compromises between vision and execution on all ends. 

MYTH: Design-Build Negatively Affects Competition

FACT: When executed properly, design-build prioritizes a competitive process based on qualifications, prior achievements, and technical strategies, making costs less significant than in the conventional design-bid-build approach. This method promotes competition grounded on key elements that contribute to a project’s success, enhancing the chances of selecting a superior design builder known for top-notch work. Furthermore, if the owner adheres to DBIA’s Best Practices and lends itself open, there should be competition from the design-builder community. 

MYTH: Design-Build Excludes Smaller/Local Firms

FACT: Local firms with enough resources have a competitive advantage. The design-build approach can be utilized for projects of all scales, thus promoting competition among smaller companies. Furthermore, research reveals that 64% of owners and 52% of specialized trade contractors stated that the design-build model fosters increased involvement from Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (MWDBE) organizations.