Difference Between Traditional vs. Design-Build Method

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Have you ever wondered how an empty lot transforms into a finished commercial building or residence?

Whether you’re designing a skyscraper or a public rest area station, there are various requirements you must fulfill and countless moving pieces you must manage to go from concept to finished construction. Due to this enormous juggling act, many new builds are shifting away from a traditional build approach toward a modern design-build method.

But what are the differences between the two construction project delivery practices?

Let’s discuss the traditional vs. design-build approach.

What Is the Traditional Construction Method?

Sometimes referred to as design-bid-build, this is the conventional process for construction projects in the US. Under this framework, the project owner works separately with the building contractor and the project designers (architect and engineers). Typically, this process is split into three parts:

  1. Design stage – The project owner partners with an architect to create an external plan for the building and interior designers for the internal plans.

  2. Bidding stage – General contractor candidates offer bids according to the pre-existing design. They submit their proposal and estimated costs and the project owner decides who they want to entrust the project to.

  3. Construction stage – The bid-winning contractor completes the construction according to the original design.

As buildings and the materials they use become more advanced, and with ever-increasing demands placed on their efficiency, the traditional method becomes strained. There’s not enough cross-department expertise between the design team and the contractor.

Put simply, in a time when projects and regulations continue to grow more complex by the day, designing a project before enlisting the services of a contractor is inefficient.

That’s where the design-build method comes in.

What Is the Design-Build Method?

A design-build construction process takes the intermediary responsibilities out of the hands of the project owner. Instead of hiring a designer and a contractor, you hire a single entity tasked with both project design and construction.

Under this practice, there’s a single contract for services rendered. As a result, the design and construction aren’t treated separately. They function as a cohesive unit that’s integrated from the outset, which reduces potential conflicts between the two.

A design-build method produces several benefits, including:

  • More accurate estimates – When both the design and construction teams are working together, on the same page, it becomes much easier to set accurate projections regarding construction budgets, construction schedules, and feasibility of design features.

  • Reduced costs – Various studies have demonstrated that when comparing the costs of both methods, a design-build tends to be anywhere between 1% to 6% cheaper in terms of unit cost and cost of growth.

  • Improved communication flows – Instead of acting as the middleman between the design team and contractor, the project owner has a single point of contact. And that point of contact provides a unified message from both a design and construction standpoint. It’s their responsibility to manage the entire process: how it looks, how much it costs, and the time it takes to complete. This merger between the two parties dramatically simplifies project management.

  • Speed of completion – When the designer is also the builder, the process is streamlined across the board. As a result, there tend to be fewer delays, miscommunication issues, or adversarial impediments.

  • A better end product – The designer’s vision must align with the contractor’s for a project to be successful. Design-build reduces the risks of schedule and cost delays, and miscommunication errors—all of which can adversely impact the quality of work.

For these reasons, more modern projects are being facilitated under the design-build method.

MFS Construction—Your Design, Construction, and Engineering Partner

Thanks to increased construction regulations and shocks to building material supply lines, it’s more costly and difficult to build than ever. In light of these mounting issues, the traditional design-bid-build method will no longer suffice—not when there’s a better way.

At MFS Construction, our project management and construction teams utilize a design-build project delivery practice that can help reduce your project's schedule and costs by overlapping the design and construction phases into a unified design-build process.

So, if you’re ready to get started on your next project, reach out today for a consultation.