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Construction Delivery Methods: What they are and how they differ

When it comes to construction delivery methods, it’s easy to get confused, but it’s extremely important to understand them before selecting one for your next capital improvement project. Selecting the correct delivery method can have a direct impact on the level of success of your project. Numerous items will factor into your decision, including: size of the project, complexity of the project, project type and overall delivery schedule. While there are many different types of delivery methods, for our purposes, we will discuss the differences between the three major delivery methods and will provide some pros and cons for each.

Design – Bid – Build

This method can be best described as a situation when the Owner hires an architect to design the project in its entirety, creating both a plan and specifications identifying all project parameters. The next step is to competitively bid the project after which the owner hires a separate firm to serve as the general contractor. Project award is based on the lowest responsive bid to deliver the plan and specs.

Pros:

  • Traditional delivery method
  • Single point of responsibility for construction
  • Complies with public bidding policy

Cons:

  • Adversarial relationships
  • No builder input during design – potential change orders
  • Timing of cost guarantee
  • Zero Owner involvement through bid process – general contractor selects all subcontractors

Construction Manager

In this situation, the Owner hires a construction manager early on in the process to work with the architect and/or engineer to establish the project parameters in a team environment. The Owner holds a separate contract with the architect and/or engineer. The construction manager is heavily engaged during the pre-construction process.

Pros:

  • Builder input during design
  • Transparency of bid process & selection of subcontractors
  • Scope clearly defined during design
  • Cost and schedule guaranteed
  • Single point of responsibility for construction

Cons:

  • Control passes from Owner to CM at construction

Design-Build

In this case, the Owner hires one entity to serve both as the construction manager and the design professional. The design-build entity is responsible for delivering both the design documents (plans and specs) and completing construction.

Pros:

  • Builder input during design
  • Price guaranteed
  • Single point of responsibility for construction
  • Fast-track delivery opportunity

Cons:

  • Potential loss of Owner control
  • One entity – loss of checks & balances