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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Costabile

Examining the "Progressive" in Progressive Design-Build

Welcome back to our series on Alternative Project Delivery (APD) methods. This post looks into Progressive Design-Build (PDB), a refined adaptation of the traditional Design-Build model. PDB allows for a more phased and collaborative approach between the owner and the design-build team. This method is gaining traction in the construction industry, especially for complex and higher-risk projects, as it significantly mitigates cost and schedule risks.

Key Benefits to Progressive Design-Build

Owners are increasingly attracted to Progressive Design-Build due to its unique approach to project delivery, offering several compelling advantages.

  • Early involvement of both the owner and the PDB team establishes a cooperative partnership from the outset. This collaboration is not just about transparency; it's about joint problem-solving and innovation, leading to tailored solutions that consider all stakeholders' input.

  • Improved alignment of needs and solutions through a two-phase approach: the first phase involves detailed scope development, schedule setting, and preliminary engineering, all in line with the owner’s budget and quality expectations. This phase ensures the project's goals are well-aligned with the owner's vision, significantly reducing risks associated with scope and cost overruns. The second phase commences once the PDB team and the owner agree on commercial terms, including a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP), marking the start of final design and construction. This phased structure is particularly beneficial when project specifics are yet to be fully defined or when stakeholder satisfaction is crucial for the project's success.

  • PDB allows owners to identify, control, and transfer project risks and liability effectively. One of the primary advantages for owners is the consolidation of responsibility under a single contract, which means there's only one entity to hold accountable. This streamlined accountability can lead to reduced liability concerns for the owner, as project issues are addressed directly with the design-build entity. Furthermore, the owner's involvement in the PDB process facilitates informed decision-making, not just based on cost but also considering other crucial factors.

  • Flexibility in managing change. PDB allows adjustments without substantial delays or cost escalations typically associated with changes to the scope, schedule, or scale of the project. The method also promotes schedule compression, cost containment, and innovative solutions through the collective expertise of the owner, designer, and contractor.

Comparing PDB with Traditional Design-Build

In a traditional Design-Build (DB) procurement, a single contract is awarded to the Design-Builder based on a defined scope and price, often selected through a competitive bidding process where the focus may be on the lowest bid or best value. The design and cost are established upfront, and the fixed price contract common in DB provides cost certainty for the owner. At the same time, the integrated approach allows for smoother communication and quicker project completion compared to traditional segmented delivery methods.

In comparison, Progressive Design-Build adopts a two-phased approach. Initially, the procurement process selects a Design-Builder based on qualifications, and an initial contract is established for preconstruction services and a portion of the design. As the project progresses, the design and contract price are developed collaboratively between the owner and the Design-Builder, allowing for adjustments due to unforeseen complications or changes. This phased approach in PDB enhances collaboration, enabling a more refined design, better cost management, and a more flexible and transparent procurement process.


Both the PDB and Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) methods are rooted in qualifications-based selection and construction price negotiation between the contractor and owner, promoting collaboration from the start. The key difference lies in the control of the design contract.

In PDB, a single contract covers design and construction, facilitating streamlined communication and accountability. In CM/GC, the owner contracts separately with the contractor and designer. Owners valuing the closer relationship with the Designer offered by CM/GC, which can be more elusive in traditional Design-Build, often view Progressive Design-Build as an ideal alternative that bridges this gap.

Both methods offer inherent flexibility during design and construction as the project scope can be dynamically adjusted to accommodate the evolving budget, schedule, and technical constraints identified during the design phase.

Leveraging Mission Critical's Expertise

The Mission Critical team adds clarity, efficiency, and strategic prowess to your company's first PDB pursuit or your latest "must win" PDB project. With our distinctive tools and strategies, we optimize knowledge, expedite development cycles, and translate your team's skills into strong submissions and project backlogs.

Our specialty is securing public and private infrastructure projects through Alternative Project Delivery for constructors worldwide. Ready for your next shortlist and win? Engage with Mission Critical.

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Mission Critical partners with firms new to writing or developing Alternative Project Delivery pursuits and Top 400 firms focusing on their next big infrastructure project.


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

RoAnn Thorne, STP, ENV SP
(602) 833-8673

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