Does Design-Build Construction Save Money?

Whether it is by cutting out middlemen or offering higher quality service, design-build firms claim that they can provide projects with better value and lower costs for infrastructure. Design-build construction is a hybrid of design and construction where a single contract is awarded to a team that includes both a contractor and a designer.

Design-build projects save an average of 6%-10% on most construction projects. This is because the design-build method is a time and cost-saving process, which leaves little room for error.

The idea behind design-build is having one firm come up with both the construction plans and be responsible for their implementation. In this way, no extra fees will appear during construction that may have been hidden in other contracts. Let’s look at some of the ways design-build saves money and other advantages of this type of construction.


How Does Design-Build Save Money?

With Design-Build construction, there should be fewer chances for payment delays that result in expensive legal battles between contractor and owner with single contract execution. Also, design-builders can provide designs and manage project costs within a single contract. When each of these processes is contracted out, it often results in delays and added costs.

Design-Build saves money by reducing the number of change orders. Since construction plans are being handled by one firm, they have a different perspective to work with than if multiple design firms were involved.

Having an outside source handle both the initial construction plans and final execution allows for higher quality standards in infrastructure projects. It saves time because:

  • There is less room for error
  • There are fewer revisions to be made
  • It keeps up the morale of workers who have more certainty during each step of project development

How Much Money Does Design-Build Save?

Design-build projects often save owners time and money. These projects make it easier to stay on a set budget and execute the build ahead of schedule.

Design-build saves 6%-10% on construction costs. This savings is due to the time and cost constraints that are involved with this type of project management process.

Design-Build also reduces conflict between contractor and owner because only one source is responsible for all plans and execution. This eliminates issues that arise when contractors want to compensate for extra work by raising prices in other parts of the project.


The Advantages of Design-Build

Design-build does have many advantages that make it a unique way to execute construction. Design-build projects offer many benefits, including:

  • There are fewer change orders: By having one firm, both design and build, there is no confusion about the original plans. This leads to fewer changes during construction, which leads to less time wasted on developing new blueprints.
  • Saves money by cutting out middlemen: With infrastructure projects involving so many different firms working collaboratively, costs are often shifted back and forth between groups. Design-Build cuts these extra fees out of the equation since all contracting is being handled by one company through the entire process.
  • Higher quality projects mean more satisfied workers: Allowing one firm to be responsible for both design and construction gives them an expanded perspective for the project. That means higher quality standards, more accountability for errors, and happier workers who are less stressed about their part in the project’s success.
  • Decreased site waste: This is due to having multiple firms on-site working collaboratively as opposed to separate entities working separately on one part at a time.
  • Lower risk of conflict between contractor and owner: There is only one source responsible for all plans and execution.
  • Fewer errors: Less stress about project success among workers leads to higher quality standards, more accountability with fewer conflicts during the project;
  • More continuous workflow: Since everything is handled by a single responsible unit, there is a more continuous workflow compared to traditional construction methods, where there can be weeks or months without any progress.

Design-build also allows for different services during design and construction to take place without a gap in work or a time limit on when one step ends and another begins. This way, the project can be completed continuously rather than the owner having to wait for weeks or even months before starting site work.


The Disadvantages of Design-Build Construction

Design-Build can come with a few disadvantages for some projects, specifically custom construction jobs or larger scale designs. Some disadvantages of design-build construction include:

  • Design-build is not ideal for custom buildings: The idea behind design-build construction is that it can be used for standardized projects like highways, bridges, and municipal water systems (and other infrastructure).
  • Little Room for Creativity: With design-build, there is only one source responsible for both the design and construction. With other types of contracts, there can be multiple firms that work to fulfill different parts of the project. This leaves room for more creativity in each step of the development process.
  • Strict Contracts: There are times when certain specifications implemented by the owner will require changes to the initial plans. This will result in extra expenses having to be covered by either party or could even lead to termination of the contract if an agreement cannot be reached.

Though these disadvantages can be minimal in most cases, they are still important to think about before beginning a design-build project. These disadvantages do not outweigh the countless benefits of design-build construction when used for typical infrastructure projects. Still, they can stand in the way of more unique or custom jobs.

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When Would You Use a Design and Build Contract?

Design-build construction is applicable in many different scenarios. If you’re looking for better coordination throughout all phases of construction, this contracting method is a great choice. However, owners should be aware that there might be some initial costs with this approach, and no significant changes will happen until the design phase is completed.

A design-build contract is suitable for any project that requires new construction or significant modifications to an existing structure. Ideal projects for design-builds include:

  • Large infrastructure projects
  • Large-scale building projects

There are specific times, however, when using the design-build method may not be best, including:

  • If you desire very specific design elements: Most firms use stock designs that are prepped for general use. If you’re specific about what you want, this can limit the firm’s ability to personalize your project.
  • If you are uncertain of the scope of your project: A design-build construction process requires that all details be set in stone before any work begins on site. If you are unclear about what you want, it may cause complications with the coordination efforts necessary under a design-build contract.
  • If you’re looking to bid for a lower price: Since there are no independent construction companies bidding, there will be no selection process. Though design-build tends to save you money overall, you won’t be able to select a bid.

Design-build comes with a few disadvantages as well, but it is considered the best possible choice for any type of construction project if you are looking to start quickly and will benefit from reduced downtime.


The Best Projects for Design-Build Construction

Design-Build is best suited for large infrastructure projects involving multiple parties working together on separate tasks to complete all phases at once rather than one by one over a set period of time. This type of construction, however, is permitted based on state regulations.

Examples of these types of projects include:

  • Highways
  • Bridges
  • Water treatment plants
  • Airport terminals
  • Any large-scale building project that involves many groups working on getting their part done efficiently while collaborating with others on site

Not every state permits Design-Build contracts based on the sort of industry involved and the size of the project. The method is now permitted in all but two states, Iowa and North Dakota, for public projects.

Design-Build contracts are ideal for construction managers as they create less stress for them, and that there is a lower risk of conflict between the contractor and owner with design/build rather than traditional construction methods.


Are Design Builds Faster Than Traditional Construction?

Design-Build reduces conflict between contractor and owner because there is only one source responsible for all plans and execution. This eliminates issues that arise when contractors want to compensate for extra work by raising prices in other parts of the project. This type of construction is typically faster as well.

Design-build construction is faster than traditional construction because all necessary contractors are involved at the same time. Design-build construction reduces completion dates by 33% in most cases.

With design-build contracting, you will experience a decrease in site waste due to having multiple firms on-site working collaboratively as opposed to independent entities working separately on one part at a time. That means fewer wasted hours on your end, as well as a decreased amount of debris left behind by workers who aren’t sure what’s been done already or where those materials should go.

With traditional construction, one firm manages the project from beginning to end. This can lead to miscommunication between contractors and significant times when nothing seems to be happening on the site. On a design-build project, however, multiple firms are working under one company throughout the duration of your job. That eliminates downtime and ensures that you won’t have any “dead zones” that occur without work being done on your property.


Is Design-Build For You?

If you are looking to completely reimagine your property, design-build might not be the right approach. This method works best when there is pre-existing construction on the site that needs to be updated or expanded upon.

Design-Build can offer many benefits, including better quality control and more continuity within your project’s development cycle. If you are looking to expand or modify your existing structures, Design-Build might be the best way to go.

It does have some downsides as well, though, such as the possibility of higher budgets for initial estimates and small gaps in time where nothing seems to be happening on your site while different firms complete their tasks independently.

Overall, it all comes down to what you want out of your construction project and who will benefit most from this contracting structure.



Design-build construction is a method of project delivery that allows a builder and the owner to work together as a team throughout the design and construction process. A design-build contract can be used for standardized projects like highways and bridges. It can also be used for smaller-scale projects if the owner has no problem with one firm being responsible for both the design and construction.

Design-builds work well because they can reduce costs and increase quality and are faster than other methods because they involve multiple companies working together. They can offer limited or new construction services on pre-existing sites. They may have higher price estimates to begin with, but this is made up for in savings later on.

Spaces Home Remodeling is a San Mateo design build remodeling company that specializes in bright, open and modern designs.  Contact us today to learn more and to schedule a free consultation.

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