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Project Delivery Methods

Design-Bid-Build (DBB)

This project delivery method is the “traditional” means of delivering a construction project, and creates a clear separation between the design and construction process.


Typically the only criteria for selection of a contractor in design-bid-build (DBB) projects is the lowest construction price. To begin the DBB process, an architect or engineer (A/E) is hired by an owner to create design documents (drawings and technical specifications) for a project. In addition, the A/E will usually develop a project cost estimate and schedule. Once the design documents are completed, a Request for Bids (sometimes called a Request for Proposal) is created a released to contractors. Contractors will then evaluate the project documents and provide a price for the work. The A/E is responsible for answering bidder questions and for assisting the owner in evaluating the received bids. Once a bid is selected, the owner establishes a contract with the chosen contractor and work begins on the project.

Having been the traditional means of delivering projects, the DBB method is typically the most familiar to those in the industry. It also has, in theory, the ability to deliver a low-cost project. However, since this method isolates the contractor from the design process, there is a high potential for project cost increases due to conflicts between the design documents and the constructability of the project in the field. Also, selecting a low bidder can result in a decrease in the quality of the finished product, as the contractor must often determine ways of achieving a profit on the job, working under a budget that was the lowest of all contractors submitting pricing.


In general, the DBB process is best used on projects that are simple, that are not under a tight time crunch and that have a limited budget.

Design-Build (DB)

In a design-build project, the owner hires a company or team under one contract to deliver the construction project from start to finish. Since the team is responsible for both the design and the construction components, pricing changes are kept to a minimum, and are usually isolated only to those instances where unknown conditions or owner requests necessitate cost increases. If DB entities are comprised of more than one company, it is important for the owner to identify the working relationship between the members of a potentially selected team in order to minimize conflicts further down the road.

The DB method provides the ability to deliver a project on a tight schedule, as projects can be split up and delivered in a package approach, where individual components are designed and built as needed to achieve the final completion date. Generally the owner can establish a firm maximum price of the project early on, and has a significant amount of cost control.


Design build is typically used for construction projects where the owner has clearly established the requirements prior to design. It can also be an appropriate method when schedule is a concern, as it removes the components of the schedule that would typically be consumed by the bidding and procurement process.

Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR)

CMAR stands for Construction Manager at Risk, and is a relatively new type of project delivery method. In a CMAR project, the owner selects a “Construction Manager” (CM) who is responsible for building the project. The selection of the CM is made using criteria in addition to the construction cost, such as quality, proven track record, detailed project approach and ability to meet the schedule of the project. In this delivery method the design work and construction work are contracted separately.


The selected CM becomes a project team member early on in the project process and, working directly with the owner and the A/E, provides input as the project moves through design into construction. The CM provides input on items such as project budget, construction cost estimating and the overall schedule as well as providing review of design drawings to identify constructability issues and potential cost savings.

Typically the pricing of the construction is begun early in the design process, and is refined as the design progresses with a final guaranteed maximum price (GMP) provided to the owner prior to beginning of construction. The GMP is typically comprised of a cost-plus-fixed-fee structure, where the actual project costs for labor and materials are passed through to the owner, and the CM charges a fixed fee on top of that amount. Though owners typically work with trusted contractors in this type of delivery method, it can be difficult to determine if the established maximum price is reasonable for the type of project constructed.


The CMAR process is most successful in projects that have a large undefined scope and are under pressure to finish in a limited time. This process may also be applicable to some projects that involve complex integration between disciplines or multiple phases of construction, where the oversight and coordination delivered by a construction manager is extremely beneficial.


Under design-assist, the construction team is engaged during the design phase far more extensively than under normal pre-construction services. Design-assist involves in the design process not only the construction manager or general contractor, but also key trade subcontractors, and makes them active participants in creating the plans for the project. Participation of the individual trade subcontractors in the design is intended to allow their specific construction expertise to add value to the plans (excluding the aesthetics and style of the project) and reduce the cost and the schedule for the project. Furthermore, instead of reacting to draft plans as part of pre-construction services, design-assist calls for a proactive approach in which the construction team participates in the preparation of the design. It seeks to replace the sequential process of design, preliminary cost estimating, re-design and, hopefully, final cost estimating, in which the design and construction teams perform separate and isolated roles, with one coordinated group effort.

Design-assist is a unique delivery method because its focus is solely on the design phase of construction (but it promises a positive impact on the entire project). Other delivery methods, whether traditional or not, address the design and the construction of an entire project. Design-assist is a delivery method that can be used in conjunction with, or incorporated into, other delivery methods. Design-assist is most commonly used with the construction management at risk delivery method, but the design-bid-build method can be adapted to it as well. Although by definition the design-build delivery method involves the owner hiring both a design team and a construction team under one contract, it does not necessarily require the input of the construction team during the design phase of the project. Accordingly, design-assist can be utilized under design-build as well.

In Summary

Each project delivery method offers it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the correct method is dependent upon the scale and complexity of your project and can provide you with:


  • – Schedule Compression opportunities
  • – Schedule Growth Control
  • – Early Cost Precision
  • – Cost Control
  • – Risk Management/Allocation
  • – Lifecycle costs
  • – Maintainability analysis
  • – Occupancy Impacts
  • – Degree of Control
  • – Continuous Estimating


Whether your job is big or small give us a call so we can discuss your project and provide you with a fair, reliable, and detailed estimate.

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