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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Costabile

Design-Build: Part 1 - Understanding the Method

Over the past two decades, the Design-Build delivery method has become a preference for public agencies and owners procuring increasingly complex public works and civil infrastructure projects.

In the early 2000s, many states in the US had restrictive laws limiting Design-Build use for public projects. Since then, a growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of Design-Build has led to over 40 states authorizing the use of Design-Build and other Alternative Project Delivery (APD) methods, including Construction Manager / General Contractor (CM/GC), Public-Private Partnerships (P3), and Job Order Contracting (JOC).

In addition, there has been a shift in the construction industry towards a focus on collaboration and risk management. Recognizing the benefits of a collaborative approach, owners have increasingly opted for Design-Build as it fosters teamwork, stimulates information sharing, and enhances transparent communication between project members.

What is Design-Build?

Design-Build is a construction project delivery method that combines the design and construction services under one contract between the owner and a single entity known as the "Design-Builder" or "Design-Build Team". This approach promotes collaboration, as one entity drives a unified workflow from the initial concept through completion. It transforms the relationship between designers and builders into an alliance that encourages collaboration, resulting in a project completed faster, more cost-effectively, and with optimized quality.

The vertical accountability structure of Design-Build places the responsibility of coordinating all project elements with the Design-Builder, minimizing the risk of conflicts, change orders, and disputes common in other project delivery systems where the owner must manage separate contracts for design and construction.

Critical Benefits of Design-Build

Owners are trending towards Design-Build as a response to the challenges posed by increasingly complex public works and civil infrastructure projects for the following reasons:

Single Point of Responsibility

A single point of responsibility in Design-Build streamlines project management and accountability, as one entity is responsible for the design and construction phases. This minimizes the owner's administrative burden, reduces communication mishaps, and fosters a collaborative environment. Moreover, it simplifies risk management as the Design-Build Team assumes responsibility for design and construction risks, promoting better decision-making and more efficient problem-solving.

Flexibility and Responsiveness

Enhanced Risk Management

Accelerated Project Delivery

How does Design-Build compare to other delivery methods?

The Design-Build method involves one entity—the Design-Build Team—working under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. This unified flow of work builds collaboration and transparent communication, reduces risks to schedule, and delivers the best value innovation. In comparison:




Contractual Relationship

Owner awards contract to a unified "Design-Build Team".

Change orders limited through collaborative design development.

Owner awards separate, but overlapping contracts with the Designer and Contractor.

Project Sequencing

Design and Construction Services are integrated and delivered by the same team.

Designer finalizes plans and the Owner awards to the lowest bidder. The Designer acts as a consultant during construction.

Contractor is integrated to provide support services during design phase development.

​Schedule Risk

Low - Design-Build Team is responsible for innovative techniques for construction in the overall design.

High - Design is finalized without Contractor input and may not reflect best means and methods.

Low - Design is influenced by innovative and best means and methods of construction.

Schedule Performance




Cost Risk

Change orders minimized as knowledge and discovery of existing conditions is undertaken during design.

Change orders reflect all changes and discrepancies between design and existing conditions.

Change orders minimized as knowledge and discovery of existing conditions is undertaken during design.

Summing Up

Over the past 20 years, Design-Build has evolved significantly to become a preferred choice for owners. The single point of responsibility, flexibility and responsiveness, enhanced risk management, and collaborative approach offered by Design-Build make it particularly well-suited to addressing the challenges posed by complex public works and civil infrastructure projects.


If you found this article interesting, join our mailing list below to be notified of the next article in the series - "Design-Build: The Process," where we will delve deeper into the Design-Build procurement process, providing detailed insights and practical tips for successful pursuit management.

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To discuss your Alternative Project Delivery pursuit goals with Mission Critical, please contact RoAnn Thorne, Principal. 

RoAnn Thorne, STP, ENV SP
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