Has Design-Bid-Build Become Obsolete?

In the construction industry the Design-Bid-Build (DBB) method is also known as the traditional project delivery method. In the past this was the most widely used project delivery method but things could be changing. Statistics have shown that the DBB method might not always be the most efficient way of completing an architectural project. Since the introduction of alternative project delivery methods, owners have realized the benefits of not just choosing the lowest bidder.

Owners using the traditional project delivery method will first have an architect complete the building design and then request bids from contractors for construction. This method can be quite risky to the owner since the designer and contractor are not working together or communicating to complete their portion of the project. This lack of collaboration often leads to increased costs and lengthy delays in completing the project.

Potential Issues Using Design-Bid-Build

    • Over Budget – Owners do not know the cost of construction before completing the design phase. There is a high risk of overspending during the design and not having enough budget for construction.


  • Project Delays – Waiting until all designs are finalized before any construction begins can dramatically extend estimated project completion dates. There is a strong potential for missing deadlines due to lack of funding and other change orders.

Using a collaborative method like design-build (DB) avoids these risks by hiring one contractor to complete both the project’s design and construction. Collaborative project delivery methods like this have become more attractive than DBB because their lower risk of going over budget and ability to meet deadlines. It comes as no surprise that most state legislations have authorized the use of the DB project delivery method.

Alternative Project Delivery Methods Advantages

  • Collaboration – Construction teams and design teams work together to identify, resolve and prevent potential issues with the project including funding, scheduling and constructability. Using a single source to acquire design and construction services results in reduced chances of litigious conflicts.
  • Efficiency – Rather than just choosing the lowest bidder like the DBB model these methods focus on what provides the best value. This approach provides project owners qualified experts with innovative designs and effective scheduling all on a fixed fee basis.

Projects using these collaborative methods can be missing out on critical check and balances between design and construction that ensure product quality. Another issue with these methods is the opportunity to reduce competition by awarding contractors based on favoritism. There definitely are situations where it is best to keep design and construction roles completely separate.

Benefits Using Design-Bid-Build

  • Simple Process – It is easy for owners to manage and understand workflow in this sequential process. There are less scheduling conflicts since design and construction phases do not overlap. These defined roles leave pretty clear line of responsibility and liability between construction and design.
  • Full Control – Owners can participate in the design process to ensure their vision is accurately illustrated. DBB method allows for the opportunity to review competitive bids of construction costs before choosing a contractor. Construction costs are calculated using a completed design which tend to be extremely accurate.
  • Exact Design – It is common for an architect to act on behalf of the owner and ensure all design requirements are met. Architect’s roles in construction administration play a big part in getting design intentions applied to project construction in traditional methods.

The DBB project delivery method is still an option for relatively simple projects or those owners without construction knowledge. Owners will be able to have control over the design and overall process. Government contracts still use DBB methods since it provides a clear and transparent way of getting exactly what is needed and the lowest cost. The design-bid-build project delivery method is NOT obsolete.

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