Despite their similar names, design-build and design-bid-build are very different processes, and choosing between them can seem overwhelming. In this article, we give you a thorough breakdown of design-build vs. design-bid-build, the differences between them, and their advantages and disadvantages. After reading this article, not only should you have a greater understanding of both delivery methods, but you should also have a better idea of which approach is best for you. 

The Design-Bid-Build (DBB) Process 

flow chart showing design-bid-build-process

 This delivery method has been the industry standard for hundreds of years, thus why it is considered to be the more “traditional” of the two. The DBB process begins with you, the owner, searching for an architect to create a design for your project. Once you are satisfied with the design, you would then submit your design plans to various construction companies and have them bid on your design. The bid selection is your choice to make, and it is usually dependent upon your budget and your preferences. Before entering the construction phase, you would have to sign multiple contracts and apply for the relevant permits needed to sanction your project. Depending on the scope of your project, it might become necessary for you to hire numerous subcontractors; for this reason, you would normally hire a general contractor to act as both an advisor to you and a manager to the subcontractors. If you would like to make a change to your design plans, you would have to contact the architect and have them modify the plans. Of course, any changes of this nature will require you to pay more out of pocket, which wouldn’t be ideal if you have a fixed budget. 

The Design-Build (DB) Process 

flowchart showing design-build process

While this delivery method is not considered “traditional” like its counterpart, it too has been utilized in the industry for hundreds of years. Through the DB process, rather than going out and hiring an architect, designers, and contractors from separate organizations, you would hire a general contractor to supervise both the design and building phases and have each unit complete them in tandem. This would allow you to bypass the bidding phase entirely. Because the design and building phases are completed under the same management, you would only have to worry about signing contracts with one business. 

Advantages & Disadvantages

chart showing advantages and disadvantages of design-build versus design-bid-build

Advantages of Design-Bid-Build (DBB) 

Perhaps the greatest advantage of DBB is the level of personal control over your project. Through the DBB process, you will have the ability to choose the people or groups that you want to develop your project through every step of the way. This would not be possible if you were to pursue the design-build (DB) process, since you would be entering an agreement with a single union of a fixed team of people. If you find comfort in a high degree of autonomy and the ability to choose your team of people, you might feel more inclined to pursue the DBB process. 

Disadvantages of Design-Bid-Build (DBB) 

Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of DBB is the issues that can arise through a lack of fluid communication between all parties involved in the completion of your project. For example, let’s say you’re in the construction phase of your project and you’ve noticed there’s a mistake within your design plans. Any corrections to your plans would need to be facilitated through them, and you would then need to update your crew of builders on these corrections and have them address any part of the project that needs fixing. Of course, unexpected issues such as 

this will only increase the cost of your project, which could certainly prove problematic if you are adhering to a fixed budget. Essentially, you would be acting as the mediator between your design team and your construction team. If you don’t have any experience in design or building, then you may find it difficult to handle this level of management (even with a general contractor helping you). More importantly, if you do not feel comfortable with this level of management, then DBB may not be the best delivery method for you. 

Another disadvantage of DBB is the amount of stress it can place on you. Each essential person or group you hire (designer, architect, builder, etc.) will require you to fill out and sign their contracts before they can start working for you. Keeping track of a hefty number of contracts from multiple organizations and abiding by legal practices can create confusion and stress that you may not wish to experience. Another disadvantage of DBB is the issue of time. The DBB process is slower than the design-build (DB) process on average because of the number of people involved and the fact that these people won’t be collaborating if they are not in the same faction. If you prefer to have your project finished sooner rather than later, the DBB process may not be the best fit for you. 

As you might have noticed, all the main disadvantages of DBB are related to working with multiple entities. It’s certainly possible to pursue the DBB process despite these disadvantages—it is the industry standard, after all. For you, as you’re considering this delivery method, it comes down to whether you feel as though you can offset these disadvantages through proper management, a flexible budget, and the ability to handle stress. 

Advantages of Design-Build (DB) 

In direct contrast to design-bid-build’s (DBB) greatest disadvantage, DB’s greatest advantage is the seamless flow of communication between all parties involved in your project. Whereas every organization involved in the design-bid-build process works individually, the people involved in the DB process collaborate as one unit to help realize your project. This means that your designers will be in direct contact with your builders throughout every phase of your project, and vice versa. Any issues that arise will be addressed and resolved by both the design team and the build team. This eliminates the hassle of having separate factions pointing fingers and blaming one another for mistakes or violations that arise; with DB, all shortcomings can be traced back to one entity. With this advantage, there is a greatly reduced level of risk in the fulfillment of your project, as your designers and builders will always be on the same page. Consequently, there is a reduced chance of having a mistake that needs to be fixed, which would save you time and money. If you have a fixed budget, you might be inclined to choose the DB process for this reason. 

Another advantage of design-build vs. design-bid-build is the condensed number of contracts you would be responsible for observing. Since the DB process only requires that you work with one business to undertake your project, you would only have to deal with the contracts provided by that one business. All of these advantages would relieve you of any stress that you would normally deal with in the DBB process. 

Additionally, as mentioned previously, DB is a quicker delivery method on average than DBB. This is because DB firms typically work on multiple tasks simultaneously, which is made possible due to breaking away from the traditional DBB process. If you’re faced with time constraints, DB would be a good fit for your needs. 

Disadvantages of Design-Build (DB) 

As mentioned previously, DB would not be able to offer you nearly as much control as you would receive through the design-bid-build (DBB) process. DB will certainly seem unappealing to you if you feel as though you must have a consistently active role in the completion of your project. Granted, you are always in control of the project in that you are the person who has the vision that will be realized (this is true for both DB and DBB), although with DB your role will be reduced significantly once construction begins. 

Another noteworthy disadvantage of design-build vs. design-bid-build also relates to control. With DB, you will have to commit to a single union with a fixed team of people, for better or worse. You cannot pick and choose the people from the team you want working on your project; it’s either all or none. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, then DB may not be the best fit for you. 

Another disadvantage of design-build vs. design-bid-build is that it is selective in who it can accept as clients, although this is more of a problem with state statutes than it is a problem with DB firms. Some states’ statutes prevent public and municipal clients from pursuing this process and are thus forced to choose the design-bid-build (DBB) delivery method.

Design-Build vs. Design-Bid-Build

Now that you’ve been informed of the essentials of design-build vs. design-bid-build, and the advantages and disadvantages of each, you should have a strong sense of the right process for you. If you feel your project needs would be better suited for the design-bid-build process, then we would encourage you to follow that avenue. However, if you feel that the design-build process is right for you, reach out to us at DMG Design+Build. Our team of accomplished professionals from various backgrounds will collaborate to complete your project in a timely and efficient manner. Take the first step toward realizing your project today!