Design Build vs. Design Bid Build

In case you don’t want to read it all: Design Build will speed the timeline and provide you with an opportunity to move your project forward with decreased administrative costs, and a culture of collaboration inherent in design-build. If interested please read on.

You are considering a new commercial building and while researching find Design Build and Design Bid Build contractors.  What is the difference?  The Design Bid Build or bid to build process is most used by public and municipal entities because it is required by state statutes. It may also be used by companies only looking for low-cost bids.

Design Bid Build

Design: You sit down with the architect and discuss what you want and need out of your building. It starts with concept, schematic, design development and contract documents phase. This may take 8 to 14 months while you make selections, discuss building flow, elevation, finishes and may also include interior design. The builder is not involved at this point.  In the end the architect has a set of drawings ready to be bid.

Bid: Upon completion you select your general contractor and can negotiate with one contractor or put it out to bid. If the bids come in within budget a contractor is selected, and you move onto the construction phase. A high-level budget is established for the lender to obtain a loan. If the project pricing is not within budget, then contractors may offer changes to the original design to decrease cost. If the budget cannot be met, the design professionals and engineers are paid for their services and the owner retains all the documents.

Build: Construction begins, with the designers and professionals of record approving submittals from the trades and vendors selected. Many times, they make field visits to ensure that financial draws requested by the contractor are approved.

Pros of Design Bid Build: You take an incremental approach to your building. Finishing the architect process before moving on to the bid. When you are looking at bids you know each portion of the project costs and have multiple bids for each portion.

Cons of Design Bid Build: The architect can design a space and tell you it will be within your budget but when put out to bid, costs can be much higher. Because everyone is not working in unison there is not a unified plan with everyone focused on the same goal.


Design-Build offers the owner to make one point of responsibility to the design builder. Although you go through a similar process with the architects. The builder is working together with design to discuss your needs and desires. The builder can provide costing options and the process can move onto build much quicker with details finalized as construction progresses.

Pros of Design-Build:  The owner is ensured that the design is always within the owner’s budget and there is no sticker shock, and it speeds the time from concept to completion.  The collaborative nature of designers and builders on the same page results in easier course correction as the project develops, which results in greater satisfaction to the owner, architect, and contractor.  There is singular responsibility for cost, schedule, and performance.

Con’s of Design-Build: You must trust the Design Builder to provide best cost for the project. To avoid this it is best to get a guaranteed maximum price from the Design Builder.  In its simplest form, it puts a cap on the contract price.