A Comprehensive Guide to Hiring a Design-Build Contractor

In the realm of construction project management, the design-build contractor stands out as a versatile and integrated solution, blending the domains of design and construction seamlessly. This blog post is your guide to this option. We’ll discuss what a design-build contractor is, comparing and contrasting them with traditional contractors in order to help you make the best possible decision about which type of contractor to work with for your construction project.

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura, and San Diego with reliable home remodeling contractors, we speak to homeowners every day about choosing the right professionals for their remodel – here are some considerations and tips to get you started.

design-build Contractor

What Is a Design-Build Contractor?

A design-build contractor is a single professional who manages both the design and construction phases of a construction project. This approach integrates the traditionally separate roles of designer and builder into one cohesive team, streamlining the process and fostering collaboration from inception to completion. The design-build contractor takes on the responsibility of coordinating all aspects of the project, from initial concept and planning to final construction and delivery.

In this model, the design-build contractor is accountable for overseeing the project’s entire lifecycle, ensuring seamless communication and a unified vision. They work closely with the client to understand their needs, objectives, and budget constraints, and then proceed to develop a design that aligns with these requirements. The contractor then handles the construction phase, utilizing their in-house team or subcontractors to bring the design to fruition.

design-build contractor blueprints

Design-Build versus Traditional Contractors

Design-build and traditional contracting represent two distinct project delivery methods, each with its own set of characteristics and implications. Traditional contracting involves a sequential process where the design and construction phases are separate, usually starting with hiring an architect or designer and then seeking bids from contractors.

On the other hand, design-build integrates both design and construction into a unified process. A single entity, the design-build contractor, oversees the entire project from initial concept to completion. 

Design-build allows for early contractor involvement, enabling accurate cost estimation and value engineering from the outset. In contrast, traditional contracting may involve a competitive bidding process but can potentially lead to adversarial relationships between designers and contractors.

Choosing between the two depends on project complexity, client preferences, and the importance of a streamlined, collaborative approach versus a more traditional, segmented process. Each method has its merits and should be selected based on the specific needs and goals of the construction project.

design-build contractor

Pros and Cons of a Design-Build Contractor

Design-build contractors offer distinct advantages and disadvantages that should be carefully considered when embarking on a construction project.

Pros include:

  • Single point of responsibility: A significant benefit of design-build is the single point of responsibility, simplifying project management. The client deals with a single entity, reducing communication complexities and potential conflicts between designers and contractors.
  • Faster project completion: Integration of design and construction phases enables faster project completion. Concurrent work on design and construction can save time, leading to earlier project delivery.
  • Cost savings: Design-build can lead to cost savings due to improved communication, value engineering, and collaboration from the project’s onset. Early contractor involvement helps in cost estimation and budget control.
  • Collaborative environment: The design-build approach encourages collaboration among various stakeholders, fostering a more cooperative and synergistic work environment that can lead to innovative solutions and improved project outcomes.

Some cons are:

  • Limited design changes: Clients may have limited flexibility for design changes once the construction phase begins since changes can be costlier and more complicated compared to traditional design-bid-build approaches.
  • Potential bias: There’s a concern that the design-build entity might favor certain design or construction solutions that may not necessarily align with the client’s best interests.
  • Quality concerns: If the design-build entity prioritizes speed and cost savings over quality, there’s a risk that the final product may not meet the expected standards.
  • Reduced competitive bidding: The selection of a design-build contractor may limit competitive bidding options, potentially affecting the project’s cost and quality due to less competitive pricing.

design-build contractor and regular contractor

Why Use a Design-Build Contractor

As you can see above, choosing a design-build contractor offers several compelling reasons. Overall, the design-build model offers a holistic, integrated approach that maximizes efficiency, minimizes risks, and ultimately delivers a successful construction project. It may be best suited for those looking to accelerate project timelines by allowing for parallel work on design and construction phases, as well as individuals with a keen eye on budget control and cost efficiency.

design-build contractors doing paperwork

Is Design-Build Cheaper or More Expensive?

Speaking of cost efficiency, determining whether design-build is cheaper or more expensive than traditional contracting depends on several factors. In some cases, design-build can be cost-effective due to its streamlined communication and collaboration, which can reduce potential errors and save time. The early involvement of the contractor in the design phase allows for better cost estimation and value engineering, potentially leading to more efficient use of resources and cost savings.

Conversely, traditional contracting might involve a competitive bidding process, which can result in lower initial construction costs. However, it can also lead to change orders and additional costs during the construction phase if the initial design lacks thoroughness or encounters unforeseen issues.

In essence, while design-build may have a higher upfront cost due to its integrated approach, it can lead to savings over the project’s lifecycle, including construction and operational phases. Evaluating the specific project, considering long-term costs, and weighing the benefits of streamlined communication and collaboration are essential in determining the overall cost-effectiveness of a design-build approach.


For help finding the best design-build contractor for your project, reach out to GreatBuildz. We’ll help match you with one of our trusted, pre-vetted contractors in the Los Angeles area. Contact GreatBuildz today at (818.317.3567) or visit our website for more information.

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.

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