Is Design-Build Construction The Answer? You Decide.



The design-build delivery system for industrial and commercial construction has been increasing in popularity among owners for many years. Design-build, also known as “single source responsibility,” combines the planning, design and building efforts into a single team. Design-build is now used in approximately 40% of all non-residential, low-rise construction projects and market share has been growing by about 1% to 2% per year, according to the Design Build Institute of America.

Why is this delivery system so popular? Why is it growing? Is this system right for everyone?

The answer to the first two questions seems to relate to design-build being faster and less costly than design-bid-build and construction management. A study conducted at Penn State University showed that design-build costs were 4.5% to 6% lower than other methods and design-build was 23% to 33% faster. Additionall, quality was found to be equal or greater for design-build when compared to the other methods.

The answer to the third question, “Is design-build right for everyone?” is probably “No.” Design-build will make sense for many owners, but not for all. We will try to outline some of the reasons why you may wish to choose either design-build or the more traditional design-bid-build.

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You will probably be more comfortable choosing design-build if:

  • You are the busy owner of a growing business with limited time available to lead a construction project.
  • You want someone to take on responsibility for the entire project, including planning, permitting, design and construction.
  • You have little or no experience in construction.
  • Your project is time sensitive.
  • You have a definite budget and want to make sure you don’t exceed it.
  • You are comfortable choosing a builder based on reputation and performance.
  • You want to work within a team environment.
  • You are not comfortable with an adversarial relationship.


You will be more comfortable choosing this approach if:

  • You have the time and interest to get involved with leading all the planning, design and building efforts for your project.
  • You are an experienced buyer of construction or are willing to pay an experienced third party to represent you.
  • You have a project schedule in mind, but can be flexible about the completion date.
  • You have a budget, but understand that the first round of bidding may not get you there.
  • You feel that the only way to get a “good number” is to get at least three bids.
  • You are comfortable taking the low bidder and “holding his feet to the fire” to make sure you get what you pay for.
  • You don’t mind an adversarial relationship if it’s required to “get the job done right.”
  • You are willing to accept more risk.

When choosing a delivery method for your project, it is very important that it reflect your style and/or your time constraints. Whichever method you choose, make sure to hire the absolute best professionals to represent you—builder, engineer, architect—people you can trust without reservation.

Do you have questions about an upcoming project? Click here to learn more about the design-build process. Give J.A. Wagner a call today at 574-295-3761 or email We will be happy to help you navigate the construction process.

Published On: September 26, 2014Categories: NewsTags: