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Design-Bid-Build vs Design-Build

Design-Bid-Build vs Design-Build

New Home Design: Which Contracting Method Will You Choose?

Thinking about building a new home in 2016? The prospect of improving your living situation can be exhilarating and, most certainly, life changing. However, in my work in drafting and architecture, I see a number of clients who quickly become overwhelmed by the process because there is so much information to gather in order to prepare. One of the major decisions that potential home-builders face is choosing the right process for design and construction. There are a number of options when it comes to selecting your resources—from the drafting and development to the construction—so the best place to begin the journey is to understand the primary contractor models within the architecture and building industry.

Design-Bid-Build versus Design-Build

There are two major models for building that home-builders can use to launch the process of design and construction: Design-Bid-Build and Design-Build. Both have their pros and cons, but it is extremely important to choose the right method and model before you commit to anything. Budget, personal taste, and flexibility are all factors that play into making the best decision for you.


In the architecture and construction industry, the Design-Bid-Build method involves hiring and signing a contract with a drafting professional at the onset of the home-building process. In most cases, you work directly with a professional drafter to devise your dream home based on the parameters of your land and permit considerations. Once the drawings are completed, you own them and you have the freedom to continue to release bids directly to construction companies to complete the build or possibly work with the drafting professional to identify partners in the industry. The drawings are sent out for bidding and you can work with the most qualified, price savvy professionals of your choosing. The Design-Bid-Build method for contracting works well for people who wish to seek out the lowest pricing through competitive bidding and maintain control over options. The major benefit to this contracting process is that you have paid the drafting professional for his/her services up front and you own the drawings; therefore, you can make every decision moving forward (but still enlist guidance if you need it).


There are many people who prefer a one-stop-shop process when it comes to designing and building a home. The Design-Build contracting model generally involves a retainer fee and contract. You pay the retainer, and the drafting professional (either on staff or through a third-party contract) begins developing the drawings. Once these are approved, the Design-Build company moves directly into the construction process through completion. In most cases, the Design-Build company will have preferred vendors, use in-house services, specific products, and partner contractors. For many home-builders, this works. However, this does not always guarantee the most competitive pricing and can limit your choices (down to specific details like who you work with and which windows you install).

If you choose to work with a Design-Build company, be aware that there are instances where pricing could come in higher than expected, disagreements with contractors could occur, or you feel you are not given enough control in the decision making process. Most often, it is possible to relinquish a contract with a Design-Build company, however, there are very spelled out clauses in the language that entail full payment of services rendered and expenses related to breaking the arrangement. In other words, you don’t necessarily own the drawings until you have paid for the services in full. In addition, if you choose to cut out of a design-build contract, you can pay for the drawings and any other associated fees, but you will then have to take those drawings to another professional who will be forced to re-draft. This can become an extremely costly venture. Again, for some, this is an ideal option; while for others, relinquishing control can be more challenging.

The home-building process can be time consuming, emotional, and exhausting at times, but ultimately extremely rewarding. This particularly rings true when you are fully aware of the process going into it. If you are well armed at the onset of the journey, home building can be an amazing adventure filled with creativity that pays off for everyone living under your roof.

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