Design-Build vs. Design-Bid-Build Differences, Advantages and Disadvantages

Whether you’re having a new home built or just renovating your kitchen, something you realize very quickly is that the building industry is awash with jargon and terminology you may have never heard before.

Design-Build Architect & Construction Contractor in Colorado

While it might be straightforward enough to grasp what an architect or construction contractor is, what’s the design-build methodology? What’s design-bid-build? How does it all come together to result in what you really want—a great new place to live, a beautiful new bathroom, or an efficient and safe new business building?

In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to go over the difference between design-build and design-bid-build construction management, the pros and cons of each, and which is best for your unique project and goals.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A clear definition of the design build construction management system
  • How design bid build construction projects work, and how they differ from standard design build projects
  • How projects built with design bid build are delivered and the possible difficulties that customers can experience along the way
  • The pros and cons of design bid build explained
  • What “design assist” means and how it’s similar to design bid build, but still often not as good as design build
  • How to choose which construction management style is right for you

Before getting into the comparative elements of these different methods of construction management, we’ll first begin with a quick recap of the design build methodology:

Quick Recap: What is the Design Build Construction Management Methodology?

design bid build process

design bid build process

Design Build is a construction project fulfillment method which has rapidly become extremely popular throughout not only Denver and the surrounding areas, but the entire United States. It is the fastest growing construction management style, and that’s because it offers a host of serious benefits to those who use it—ranging from homeowners to multinational corporations expanding their physical assets.

The traditional method of construction follows a design bid build process. We’ll discuss this in greater detail in just a moment, but generally it involves the customer finding an architectural design firm, getting plans made, and then hiring a construction firm separately. While this process has some advantages, the advent of the design build methodology has exposed many of its inherent problems: expense, delays, and third-party infighting.

Design Build Contractors Differences – Part Of the Same Team at Factor Design Build

Factor’s design build contractors team differs from the traditional method by bringing designers and construction contractors under one roof. In other words, the designers and contractors are all part of the same company. This offers many benefits, since both teams can work together in harmony, and often results in reduced cost for the project customer, faster delivery times, and clearer, easier communication.

Now, let’s see how this compares to the traditional method of construction delivery:

The Old Way of Doing Things: How Design Bid Build Construction Projects Work

design build residential construction

design build residential construction

Design-Bid Building Construction vs. 2022 Design-Build Construction Methodology

Colorado’s Design-Build Renovation Contractors

Design bid build projects are the “old” way of doing things. While many project around Colorado and the country still get completed this way, more and more individuals and business entities are moving into the design build method instead for renovation contractors, for reasons we’ll discuss in greater detail in the following section. For now, let’s just establish how the design bid build construction management style works.

We’ll illustrate how this style of management works with an example. Imagine that you own a plot of land, and you want a new home built on it. Traditionally, you’d begin by finding an architectural design firm to create the plans for the home. You’d work with them and discuss all of the different features you want the home to have, and—crucially—you’d discuss your budget with them. The design firm’s job would be to create plans which not only provide the kind of home you want built on the land, but within your budget as well.

Once the plans are complete, the next step would be to find a construction contractor to actually build the home—to put hammer to nail, so to speak. You may seek out several contractors for this portion of the project, thus allowing them to “bid” on the construction with different prices, delivery times, and other expectations. Once you select a construction contractor, they’ll go to work on your project.

However, this traditional approach isn’t without its drawbacks, as we’ll explore in the following section.

Design Bid Build Project Delivery Method & Potential Problems With This Approach

Denver design build firm

Denver design build firm

The design bid build project delivery method involves taking the plans you’ve received from a design firm and giving those plans to a construction contractor. While the contractor and the design firm will have communication with one another, it’s generally limited—sometimes project customers find themselves in the position of being the “middleman” or go-between in a frustrating game of telephone.

This communication, or lack thereof, is perhaps one of the most aggravating aspects of the design bid build method, as it can cause delays in the project timeline. For instance, imagine that a material originally laid out in the plans developed by the selected design firm—such as siding or finishing materials—are at the time of construction either unavailable or, as so many things are these days, experiencing an unexpected price increase. The construction contractor will need to know how to proceed, and will either have to overrun the budget or find a different kind of material.

Denver and Boulder, CO Design Build Projects

The Boulder design build project customer will have to sort out these difficulties more or less on their own, since one of the other problems that occurs with the design bid build construction management style is that the separate entities of designer and contractor will blame one another for problems of this nature (and others too). Thus the customer is caught in the middle of finger-pointing, since both entities don’t want to be the ones to take responsibility.

As mentioned, another potential problem to be aware of are possible budget overruns. Budget overruns typically occur due to a miscommunication between the design team and the construction contractor. Since the two companies have little incentive to “play nice” with one another—unlike in the design build system—these issues tend to be passed over to the project customer. Budget overruns can be expensive, and they can also lead to project delays.

design bid build pros and con
Design-Build vs. Design-Bid Build Construction Methodology

Scheduling and Fixed-Cost Home Construction Pricing Challenges

Scheduling issues as well as fixed-cost pricing home construction can make a huge difference in whole-home construction projects in Colorado.

While scheduling challenges and changes can be inconvenient for whole-home construction projects, the real problem is that it can pose a substantial expense for the project customer and this is where fixed-cost pricing home construction and remodeling can be an advantage to the homeowner.

Perhaps you’re waiting for the new home to be finished before listing or finalizing the sale of your previous house, or you’re paying expensive rental rates for temporary housing. While not typically considered budget overruns within the context of the construction itself, they are additional expenses that shouldn’t be discounted.

The importance of adhering to a strict schedule and the timely delivery of a completed project cannot be overstated. This is especially true from the perspective of a business construction—the longer your new building, office, warehouse, or other business-critical building isn’t move-in ready, the longer it takes for you to get back to doing your job. This, again, is not typically considered a budget overrun, but any business owner knows that time wasted is money lost.

Design-Build On-Time Project Delivery is A Priority

Finally, there’s one last thing to consider about the importance of on-time project delivery, and that involves renovations or home improvements. At Factor Design Build, we’ve successfully completed many kitchen and bathroom remodels. The very nature of the project involves working inside a person’s home—and, while our contractors are extremely respectful and excellent people, it can still pose an inconvenience.

Thus, finishing a scheduled renovation or remodel job on time is also extremely important. The same problems that occur with whole home building and the design bid build methodology can just as easily occur with simple single-room remodels. That means more construction happening in your home—or worse, an unfinished room just sitting there, unusable—for longer periods of time than are perhaps necessary.

Design Bid Build Pros and Cons Explained: Is The “Old” Way of Doing Things Really That Bad?

We understand that in the previous section we painted a fairly grim picture of the design bid build methodology. Don’t misunderstand—many successful projects have been completed using the “traditional” method of construction. However, the problems discussed above are certainly possible and more or less cover the cons portion of this section. Thus, we’ll discuss the possible pros of the design bid build methodology.

Perhaps the primary benefit to using the design bid build construction style is the middle word of the term: bid. When taking your plans from a separate design firm, you have more of a chance to shop around for bids on the actual construction work of those plans. Sometimes everything goes smoothly and you get a project done well for a great price. However, the risks are still entirely possible.

Design-Build New Home Building General Contractor – You Get What You Pay For!

Sometimes, project customers for new home building in Colorado find a “great deal” or lowest perceived price when utilizing the design bid build construction management style, because contractors are bidding on the job. This means that they can select the bid with the lowest price. Unfortunately, the old adage about getting what you pay for can often rear its ugly head in these scenarios, because all of the “cons” mentioned in the previous section can start to occur.

Denver historic home remodel

denver historic home remodel

Colorado Construction Contractors Putting In The Lowest Bid – May Not Always Be The Best Choice

Denver Design-Build Residential Contractors Provide A Better Choice for Project Management Assurance and Integrity

It also can happen that particularly unscrupulous construction contractors put in a low bid, knowing that their offer will look attractive—except that they fully know and expect to run the budget up when doing the actual project, blaming the design firm for the problems encountered that result in higher costs. It is incredibly difficult for the project customer to determine whether or not these “new” costs were premeditated or actual bumps along the road. That’s yet another reason why working with a design build company is often the better choice, since the contractors have no incentive (or opportunity) to push the blame over onto their coworkers.

Realistically, the construction world wouldn’t be making such a dramatic shift to the design bid construction management style if it wasn’t a more efficient and cost-effective way of doing things. Large corporate entities are rapidly switching to this method of construction, because of the sheer savings in terms of both time and money. Unlike homeowners, these entities have shareholders to report to, and every second and penny counts. The point is, these entities know what they’re doing; small businesses and homeowners are starting to catch on too.

Design Build vs. Design Assist

Design build vs. design bid build vs. construction management. What does it all mean? We did say at the beginning of this guide that there were a lot of terms to learn, but fortunately these ones are easy and readily understood.

Design assist simply refers to when the construction contractor works with the architectural design firm. This still falls under the old category of design bid build, except is supposed to engender more communication between the two entities. It’s something of a middle ground between design bid build and design build, but can often result in much of the same problems as the old way of doing things.

Comparing Design-Build and Design-Bid-Build Construction & Determining Which is Right For You

Generally speaking, the design build methodology of construction fulfillment will be the right choice for anyone considering building in the Denver or surrounding areas. The track record is there for anyone to see: design build is more affordable, easier for the customer, and results in more projects delivered on time than the “old” way of doing things with the design bid build methodology.

Complete Home Renovations The Design-Build Way

Perhaps the best way to determine which is better for you for your complete home renovations project is to schedule consultations with a few traditionally based design firms, and to schedule a consultation with our design build firm here at Factor Design Build. We’re confident that once you see what our team is capable of, the choice will become obvious.

The clear winner is the design build methodology of construction management. Learn more about how this all comes together by starting a conversation with our polite, knowledgeable team. Please feel welcome to call us at (303) 872-3482 at your earliest convenience!


Ready to invest in your home and yourself? Let’s discuss your next luxury design-build project.



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