Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build vs. Construction Manager-At Risk

Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build vs. Construction Manager-At Risk


Which construction delivery method is best for you?


As an owner embarking on a new construction project, one of your first choices will be the type of delivery method best suited for you and your project:  Design-bid-build, design-build, and construction manager-at-risk. The below video walks through these three common methods of project delivery.

The decision regarding how your project will be designed and built can be determined based on your overall goals for the project, tolerance for risk, and comfort level with the process and team.


Goals for a project typically fall under three categories: schedule, cost, and design. Owners often select two of the three categories as their main objectives for construction.


Top Priority: Schedule


If schedule tops your list, then design-build would be your primary choice for a project delivery method. The design-build team is led by a contractor, who hires the architect and engineers ­— the design team —  to expeditiously transform your vision into reality. The project schedule is compressed by staggering the design and construction of discrete project elements, while also managing cost.


For example, for the Virginia Tech Creativity and Innovation District Living Learning Community, WM Jordan was the selected design-build contractor with Hanbury as the architect, and Draper Aden Associates as the civil engineer. Many utilities crossed the site and needed to be relocated in advance of the building construction. The first permit package was for the utility relocations, while the building design was still taking shape. The second permit package was for the building foundations, while the interior of the building was still under design. This pattern continued until the project was turned over to the owner.


Top Priority: Budget


If your overall budget is a high priority, then a design-build or construction manager-at-risk could be a good choice for your project. Design-build procurement offers an up-front fixed fee for the entire project, so you can easily plan your expenditures through the life of the project. A construction manager-at-risk works with your architectural and engineering team to offer ideas to reduce cost and improve constructability throughout the design, and, with the issuance of the final construction documents, provides you with a guaranteed maximum price with assumptions and exclusions.


Top Priority: Design


As the owner, you might want to have control over the project design. In that case, the traditional design-bid-build delivery method might be a good choice, as you would be responsible for selection and management of the architect and engineering team and the contractor.


Risks can be successfully managed by either the owner or the contractor or jointly. The primary risk factor is the project budget, and possible expenditure overruns. An owner’s risk is greatest with a design-bid-build. With the design-build and construction manager-at-risk project delivery methods, the risk is transferred to the contractor.


Construction Delivery Method — How do you choose?


Ultimately, the project delivery method should be chosen based on your comfort level with your tolerance for risk, the process, and your selected project partners. And, as with everything in life, success’ foundation rests on good communication and trust. Contact us today to discuss your project with us!