Design-Bid-Build Explained: Process, Pros and Cons (2024)

What is the Design-Bid-Build Project Delivery Method?

Design-bid-build (DBB) is a traditional construction project delivery method that involves the completion of three distinct phases in sequence. Construction does not begin until the design process is complete (and a bid accepted), so there is no overlap between design and construction.

Firmly established in construction, and the go-to approach in the industry for decades, if not centuries, DBB, also known as design-tender, is clearly defined. Its advantages and disadvantages are also well understood. The DBB method insists on transparency of costs upfront–which is not to say that ballooning change orders will not add to the bottom line later–and has made it a favorite in public contracts that are subject to rigorous oversight.The construction industry too has dozens upon dozens of subspecialties, each of whom like to stay in their lane, a process that DBB accommodates. The traditional DBB method has worked well for years but is seeing competition from a more nimble approach, the design-build project delivery method. Design-build compresses the project lifecycle and time by encouraging overlap between the design and construction phases: construction can begin even when the design team is ironing out certain aspects of the design.Despite design-build’s growing popularity, the traditional design-bid-build approach continues to occupy key segments of the construction industry.

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The Design-Bid-Build Process in Construction

As the name implies, DBB comprises three distinct phases:

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Design-Bid-Build Explained: Process, Pros and Cons (3)

Design-Bid-Build Explained: Process, Pros and Cons (4)


In this phase, the owner or the agency contracts a design engineer or architect to develop a comprehensive set of construction drawings that forms the basis of the subsequent bidding process. The architect or design engineer first works closely with the owner to understand vision and translate that into a document. Design includes translation of these needs into a comprehensive set of engineering drawings that contractors can use to build the desired structure. An architect will sometimes work with other professionals such as plumbing and electrical engineers on specific sections of the design documents. A thorough reiteration of the documents then readies it for public bidding.

Bid (or tender)

General contractors bid on the design documents after consulting with subcontractors for various aspects of the construction process, including HVAC installation, landscaping, insulation, and more. The final bid typically outlines the cost of materials and labor. The scope for work might be refined during the bidding process. During this stage, the roles of the various entities involved are also well laid out. Once all bids come in by the specified date, the owner may decide to scrap or modify the project or proceed with a specific general contractor.


The general contractor begins and completes the construction of the project while supervising and getting work done from a series of subcontractors. Work often executes in a specific sequence. The general contractor signs on to a specific scope of work and design cannot be altered at this late stage.

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Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build

As opposed to DBB, design-build is a newer project delivery method that does not include clear compartments between the owner and the builder. Contractors come in much earlier during the process and collaborate with the design team.

Pros of Design-Bid-Build

The traditional design-bid-build project delivery method process is advantageous because it has:

A Clear Distinction Between Teams

The architect or designer and the contractor each stay in their own lanes, which makes it easier to hold professionals accountable for missed deadlines or ballooning expenditures.

Greater Transparency

Because roles are more clear cut in the DBB method, the project owner enjoys greater transparency into the process and might therefore be able to spot potential problems faster.

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More Opportunities for Fair Bidding

The bidding process is usually open to a wide set of professionals and the public bidding window ensures competitive quotes, which is especially beneficial for large-scale public works projects.

Encourages Professionals to Play totheir Strengths

DBB plays to designers’ and contractors’ strengths. In this project delivery method, they can concentrate and build upon their niche, instead of trying to be all things to all people.

Greater Responsibility on Owner

The owner in the DBB process creates two separate contracts for the designer and the builder. This can be an advantage where the owners need a greater say in project execution. However, there is a downside too: Any snags in the execution ripple up to the owner.

Cons of Design-Bid-Build

The DBB process has its fair share of challenges. They include:

Possibility of Longer Timelines

Because the sequential DBB method waits for each party to completely finish its tasks before moving on to the next one, the project might have a greater chance of being delayed.

Challenging Construction Implementations

Not all designs are easily constructed. Keeping construction professionals divorced from the design process might encourage creativity but sometimes challenging designs can’t be easily translated into finished projects. A lack of input from all stakeholders early on in the process can highlight problems much further down the road and lead to more time crunches and expensive redesigns and rebids.

Owner Bears Brunt of Project Challenges

Change orders, busted timelines all fall on the owner’s shoulders as they develop two separate contracts–one with the designer and the other with the contractor. Since the owner supervises both parties, they are also responsible for the problems associated with each.

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Pros of Design-Build

The design-build project delivery method enjoys a few advantages as well. They include:

Shorter Timeline

Because the design-build process allows contractors to begin work on the project before the designs have been firmly established, the method enables faster turnarounds.

Fewer Change Orders

The DB process leads to greater collaboration between the stakeholders and, equally important, this collaboration takes place early in the project. As a result, all teams are able to put out any potential fires early. This leads to fewer problems down the road and fewer troublesome change orders and rework. Because of these efficiencies, design-build advocates also maintain that the process is less expensive than the DBB approach.

Cons of Design-Build

While design-build is growing in popularity, it is not without its own set of challenges. These include:

No ownership of problems

Because there is significant overlap between various stakeholders, it becomes easier for them to pass the buck to the other party when problems do occur. It is more difficult to track mistakes and find the entity responsible for the fix.

No competitive bidding

The design-build method leans on the design-builder to execute the project, which means the owner might not always get the most competitive price as the bidding process gets sidelined.

Design-bid-build or Design-build: Which Method is Right for your Project?

Since each approach to construction project delivery has both advantages and disadvantages, it might be difficult to know which one to run with.

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Examples of Design-Bid-Build Projects

As the following examples illustrate, DBB projects can take a variety of forms–from buildings to arenas and infrastructure projects.

A few Design-Bid-Build examples include:

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Renwick Gallery at the SmithsonianAmerican Art Museum

Renovation for the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Aging infrastructure and updated building codes along with a few other factors necessitated a major renovation of the gallery, which has enjoyed a storied history. Design-bid-build was the primary approach for the project.

State Route 99 Tunnel | Seattle, Washington

A deep-bore tunnel to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct registered bids from multiple contractors with one winning the $1 billion contract. The Seattle Tunnel Partners promised to deliver a year ahead of schedule.

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Design-Bid-Build Explained: Process, Pros and Cons (11)

Burj Khalifa | Dubai

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, in Dubai, opened to the public in 2010. It followed the DBB model to realize the vision of leaning on the Islamic architecture of the region. Design was a big focus and was delivered by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the same firm that delivered Chicago’s Sears Tower.

The Impact of Design-Bid-Build on the Construction Industry

Design-bid-build has been the dominant project delivery approach in the construction industry for a long time. The lump sum upfront estimation, with clear delineation between design and construction, have been the primary ways the construction industry has done business.

While DBB has been the traditional delivery approach, the industry itself is registering seismic changes: projects that are rooted in sustainability and a call for compressed time cycles. Construction is borrowing a few pages from the manufacturing industry. Modular construction, for example, is treating each built unit like a module that can be manufactured elsewhere and assembled onsite. In addition, projects themselves are growing in complexity to an extent that divorcing construction and design phases from each other no longer seems to make much operational sense.

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A variety of such factors is moving the construction industry toward more flexible project delivery approaches. As a result, DBB is slowly ceding market share to the newer design-build method. DB is forecast to make up nearly half of construction spending in certain key geographies in the United States in 2025.While design-build might be making steady progress, do not expect the traditional design-bid-build approach to fade away. The time-tested method will endure, but it will have to make room for alternative approaches–and that is a good thing.

Cloud-Based Construction Projects

No matter which project delivery approach you choose, cloud-based construction management software involves all relevant stakeholders at the right stage and keeps everyone in the loop at all times. Accessing updated information from the cloud ensures all parties are working with the same data. This aids effective communication, faster approvals, and speedier completion of projects. Trimble’s ProjectSight project management solution, along with the Trimble Connect collaboration platform empowers construction professionals to collaborate and manage their project easily and with the best outcomes.

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Design-Bid-Build Explained: Process, Pros and Cons (2024)


What are the advantages and disadvantages of design-bid-build? ›

Advantages and disadvantages of design bid build
  • Upfront costs. In the design-bid-build method, clients pay for the design phase upfront before they know the construction cost.
  • Timeline delays. No stage can move forward until the previous stage is complete. ...
  • Potential for cost overages. ...
  • Minimal collaboration.
Nov 24, 2021

What are the advantages of a design-bid-build method? ›

What are the advantages of the Design-Bid-Build method? The method is straightforward enough for homeowners to stay on top of and understand. Unlike the design-build delivery, there is less collaboration between the design team and the GC, and thus design changes are easier to track.

What is the main disadvantage of the design-bid-build project delivery method? ›

Construction costs are not firm until the design stage is complete. If bids are over budget, the owner must pay for redesigns, value engineering, and rebidding. This can cause significant delays.

What are the advantages of design-build? ›

The major benefits of Design-Build construction include streamlined communication between the contractor, subcontractors and owner, faster project completion, increased collaboration, and cost savings. As a result, DB may be appropriate for large and complex projects that require the best and quickest turnaround.

What is design process disadvantages? ›

Disadvantages of the design process

It is less economical since one requires stationery and quite a lot of materials to present the various stages. Without artistic skill, one may get downcast with the inability to sketch or draw effectively hence discouraging further attempt.

What is one disadvantage of design-build procurement method? ›

Design-Build Cons
  • Higher Prices. With no bidding process, the project owner does not have the ability to select their own price. ...
  • Creativity. Many design-build companies have stock designs that they use and then tweak to fit the project owner's requests. ...
  • Less Involvement.
Feb 17, 2023

What are the possible risks of design-build contract? ›

The case law indicates that a design build contract shifts risk to a contractor that a final design will be more costly than the bid price to build and that the traditional rules of fixed price contract interpretation still obtain.”

What is a disadvantage of the bidding system? ›

Disadvantages. Some of the demerits of the system of competitive bids are that in the race to place the lowest bid and win the project. The vendors might use cheap quality materials or resources, which can affect the project result. And sometimes, to secure a bid, the vendors might be left with little or no profits.

What would be considered one advantage of a design-bid-build contract? ›

Greater Responsibility on Owner

The owner in the DBB process creates two separate contracts for the designer and the builder. This can be an advantage where the owners need a greater say in project execution.

Who carries more risk in design-build? ›

In both traditional and design-build projects, the risk of scope changes is usually on the owner. In both project delivery methods, an owner that changes its mind and imposes new requirements on the project is responsible for the financial (and schedule) consequences of its decision.

What are 2 benefits of using a design process? ›

Establishing a design process improves team collaboration, increases the quality and speed of your design work, and makes it more likely that everyone – especially your end users – is happy with your final designs.

What are the five advantages of good design? ›

The Benefits of Good Design

Making a site/app incredibly user friendly. Conveying clear understanding of product, use, or intention. Simplifying navigation and accessibility. Setting your brand apart.

When would you use a design and build contract? ›

The Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) Design and Build Contract (DB) is intended for use on construction projects following the design and build procurement route. This involves appointing a main contractor to design (or complete the design) of the project and then to go on and construct it.

What is a problem in design process? ›

A problem statement identifies the gap between the current state (i.e. the problem) and the desired state (i.e. the goal) of a process or product. Within the design context, you can think of the user problem as an unmet need.

What is the most challenging part of the design process? ›

Not having enough tIme is mentioned by 22.7% of the respondents as their biggest problem with the Design Thinking process. Time and Integration into the existing business processes represent 68.2% of all responses.

What are the 5 design process? ›

The Five Phases of Design Thinking

The short form of the design thinking process can be articulated in five steps or phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Let's briefly explore each of these phases in relation to a practical design process.

What is a 3 bid process? ›

It is a process in which three or more service or contract providers compete for a particular job or contract.

What are the three types of bidding? ›

Types of bids include auction bids, online bids, and sealed bids.

What are the different types of bidding process? ›

There are two types of bidding in procurement: open or competitive bidding, and closed (“sealed”) or noncompetitive bidding. Competitive bidding takes place usually through the RFx process, which is detailed below. In contrast, some companies will also use noncompetitive bidding.

What are the problems of using the traditional design bid build procurement system? ›

What are the disadvantages of the design-bid-build method?
  • Upfront costs. In the design-bid-build method, clients have to pay for the design phase upfront before they know the cost for construction.
  • Overall timeline delays. ...
  • Potential for cost overages. ...
  • Potential for lower quality. ...
  • Minimal collaboration.
Nov 9, 2021

What type of contract is design-build? ›

Design-build is a method of project delivery in which one entity - the design-build team - works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of e procurement? ›

The answer to this query depends on your security needs and the industry you are operating in. E-procurement software does offer benefits such as improved flexibility and instant access.
Cons of e-procurement
  • Micromanagement. ...
  • Time-consuming approval chains. ...
  • Not ideal for direct materials. ...
  • Supplier onboarding problems.
Oct 30, 2017

What is the opposite of design-build? ›

Favoritism or patronage is the opposite of design-build best practices. While design-build allows for the considering of factors beyond just price—such as team qualifications and project innovation—this is done to achieve best value and superior projects.

Why is design and build faster? ›

Design-bid-build projects tend to get fast-tracked with construction phased according to the design. In the design and build method, there is much closer collaboration and coordination between the designer and the construction team. This streamlined system allows effective and seamless execution between all parties.

What are the common mistakes during the bidding process? ›

5 Common Bidding Mistakes — And How To Avoid Them
  • Bidding on every job that comes along. ...
  • Overlooking the fine print. ...
  • Overestimating your equipment capabilities. ...
  • Not asking enough questions. ...
  • Throwing together a last-minute bid.

What are the disadvantages of competitive bid process? ›

There are a few disadvantages to competitive bidding as well. The process can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if there are a lot of interested vendors. It can also be difficult to evaluate bids from different vendors, since they may use different terminology or pricing structures.

What is the difference between DB and DBB? ›

Design-bid-build (D-B-B) is a method of project delivery that involves the owner or agency contracting different entities for design and construction. Design-bid-build (D-B) is another form of project delivery that involves the owner or agency contracting one entity for design and construction.

Who owns the design in a design-build? ›

In traditional construction, the owner retains the designer during the construction phase to act as a watchdog to help ensure that the facility is built as designed. The designer contracts directly with, and is obligated to, the owner.

Which is better design-build or Design-Bid-Build? ›

Many assume Design-Bid-Build is the best option as it allows for choosing the lowest bidder(s) for the project. However, Design-Build can also be cost effective because it involves the general contractor and designer from the beginning and can eliminate design changes further into the projects' construction.

Who is responsible for design failure? ›

The Architect or Engineer is likely to blame the builder with the proposition that the Contractor has an implied obligation to point out a design problem and failed to do so; further there are implied obligations to carry out work satisfactorily with "reasonable skill and care" and "fit for purpose", by executing work ...

What is the advantage of design and build contract? ›

Design & Build allows the costs to be agreed from beginning under a single Design & Build provider negating the need for multiple parties all trying to coordinate on the one project. This provides a streamlined and efficient form of management that reduces overall costs of the project.

What would be considered one advantage of a design bid build contract? ›

Greater Responsibility on Owner

The owner in the DBB process creates two separate contracts for the designer and the builder. This can be an advantage where the owners need a greater say in project execution.

What are two 2 advantages for owners who use the design-build bid process of project delivery? ›

Design-Bid-Build Advantages

Since the designer and contractor are hired separately, you have a lot more control over the pricing of your project. Once you find a designer that fits your price range and can produce what you're looking for, you get to pick the contractor bid.

What is the risk in design and build procurement? ›

Design and Build is a relatively low risk procurement option for the employer, in terms of cost and time. There can be a risk related to design and quality, particularly if the employer's requirements were not properly gathered and if insufficient time went into examining the contractor's proposal.

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