To Design or to Design-Build?

August 5th, 2005 by Peter Schmelzer

There is a trend in recent years away from the traditional separation of Architect (Designer) and Contractor (Builder), called Design-Build.

Two types exist, distinguished by who takes the lead. Architect-led teams tend to focus more on design, which Contractor-led teams tend to focus more on cost and construction methods with less emphasis on design.

As an architect, it is appealing to have the cooperation of the Contractor during design and pricing. It seems that there may be a potential time-savings in working directly with the usual team for every project.

However, as a client, the picture may less favorable for several reasons.

First, the traditional separation of Architect and Contractor sets the Architect as a neutral party in the event of disputes, and as the client’s advocate through the design and construction process. Without separation, both are lost to the client since Architect and Contractor are of the same entity.

Second, you as client will lose the clarity of costs between design fees and construction costs, and perhaps the ability to receive competetive bids.

Third, you as client may not get the same design attention with a design-build firm as with a design-only firm. Design firms build their reputation on their ability to create appropriate, affordable, responsive, and innovative designs that are right for you. Design-Build firms often limit your options, start from packaged plans and “customize” them.

Benefits of the Design-Build route might include single source responsibility and potential cost savings.

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