The Misconceptions of Design/Build

By Jennifer Luoni, Director of Operations | Architecture

In a world driven by traditional design/bid/build (DBB) process there are misconceptions about design/build (DB). Contrary to traditional methods DB is a mindset embraced by both the team and client as the difference isn’t just contractual. DB should be viewed as achieving innovative design at an optimal cost for the client. As a result 80% of first time DB users fully convert to this method upon experiencing its benefits.


Misperception:  Less competition drives price up.

Reality:  Progressive bidding occurs during preliminary planning extending until the GMP is presented. Early bids allow a high level of constructability input. Value is increased in the process when subcontractors with tailored expertise are selected. Subcontractors become partners who share the same goal. As such, they provide upfront value engineering and design assistance at no cost knowing the greater goal is moving the project forward. This means designing a system that meets their budget requirements or selecting a system that can be installed at a later date.


Misperception: The architect protects the client from the general contractor.  

Reality: In the traditional DBB approach the architect assumes a low level of risk – incorrect drawings, poor specifications, undocumented scope – which result in the client absorbing the financial impact. The GC has no obligation for these omissions. In DB a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) is provided for the scope of work. Therefore the DB absorbs efficiency risks ensuring that none of these problems happen. This high level of risk absorption drives better communication and collaboration to meet client expectations.

Design Quality

Misperception: DB architecture is compromised as design becomes subordinate to contractor needs due to a combined contractual agreement. 

Reality: Because DB is built upon contractual and purposeful agreement it is the most inclusive way to motivate all parties. This ability to openly collaborate ensures a success project outcome.

Competitive Bidding

Misperception:  Competitive bidding brings the best value.    

Reality: To keep prices attractive, DBB subcontractors won’t divulge missing information. Thus anything not on the plan becomes a change order after the fact. The DB transparent partnership process eliminates this issue via accurate, thorough proposals and value engineering. It is understood that the scope of work and timeline is the responsibility of the subcontractor at the onset.

The combination of innovation, integrity, risk security, disciplined cost and efficient execution make DB an ideal method for building development. With the majority of clients permanently converting to DB after their first project, its success ensures that this method will continue to grow exponentially.

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