Designing and Building Your New Home- Choose the Process that's Right for You

Building a new home or adding on to your current home can be daunting.  There are many decisions and all of them will affect the beauty, comfort, durability and safety of your home.  Your best advantage will be a strong team that listens to you, understands your goals and needs, can collaborate as a partner and deliver your vision.  To learn more read on!


First, Decide on the Method of Designing and Building

Selecting the method by which your design will be developed is important.  There are three prevailing methods:

  • Design - Bid - Build (DBB)  is the practice of architecture as an “individual art” as opposed to a “team sport” to quote architect Carlos Cardoso.  This method, in use for the last 150 years, has three compartmentalized components consisting of the Client, Architect, Builder.  In this method the client contracts with two entities for design and construction.
  • Design-Build (DB)  is a vertical design and project development build process that has a history of several thousand years.    "It answers the client's wishes for a single point of responsibility in an attempt to reduce risks and overall costs.... The Cost and schedule reduction and decreased litigation associated with DB has been demonstrated repeatedly."
  • A third method is Integrated Project Design (IPD), a blend of the two above methods that can favor the architect or builder  in varying degrees depending on how much collaboration is insisted on by the client, builder and designer.  According to the American Institute of Architects, IPD when employed early in the design process "collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency."

Design-Bid-Build: Separating Designing from Building

This is the prevalent method of building architecturally designed work today, accounting for about 60% of construction contracts (RSMeans Market Intelligence).  In this process a homeowner selects a designer or architect and the designer delivers the plans to multiple builders to leverage the lowest bid.  It is believed that the most efficient builder will have the lowest bid.  While this method can deliver the lowest upfront cost it can be at the expense of quality, durability, comfort and safety and the true cost of home ownership.  The "means and methods" of building your project is up to the builder and their interpretation of the plans.  If the client was getting exactly what is drawn with the same quality, the same durable details, the same qualified professionals, the same materials, the same mechanicals, the same service, the same protection, the same warranty policy- then the bids should be very much the same since there is generally little variance in the cost of t.  

In essence, the DBB method sells the project to the contractor who will pay the lowest cost to build your project.   However, the builder has incentive is to preserve profit and can do so via means and methods during construction.  

In DBB the question of liability is also in question.  Since the client manages two separate contracts- one to design, one to build- who is responsible for what can be confusing.  Contractor loyalty can also be suspect- if the builder wants more work from this architect then the architect/designer is the contractor's primary client.  


Design-Build: One Entity for Designing and Building

“Design/Build is characterized by high levels of collaboration between the design and construction disciplines, input from multiple trades into the design, and a single entity bearing project risk” (Beck Group).  This is an example of how jets, autos, heavy equipment etc. are made today.  Design / Build has inherent efficiency because: 

  • The Designer and Builder are one entity responsible for the project from design through warranty;  
  • Known problematic or expensive details are avoided or solved during drawing development with the input from the builder and major trades;
  • Value engineering is applied during the project design, not during building when it is the least effective;
  • Details that are known to be durable, add comfort and safety are brought into the design through the valued field experience of the trades;
  • Because of the single entity attribute of DB projects  can be tuned to the long term needs of the client. 

 According to Sanvido and Konchar of Pennsylvania State University, Design-Build projects are delivered 12% faster and cost 6% less than Design-Bid-Build. 

The Middle Road?- Integrated Project Delivery- Pairing an Architect with a Builder from the Beginning (IPD)

IPD is when the Architect or Designer are separate entities from the Trades but the trades are brought into the design process early.   This forms a temporary team where the Trades are compensated for their time as they work with the design team in the development of your plans, applying Value Engineering to the design, rooting out potential problems and designing in efficiencies before the project starts.  The question of liability is still an issue in this method and must be agreed upon from the beginning.  Just who is responsible for problems in this scenario is still a questions since the client manages two contracts, one with the designer and one with the builder.  This method, although the inherent value is acknowledged, is not widely utilized due to current momentum in Design Build and Design-Bid-Build.

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