Is design/build taking over the world


seems like every builder is now a design/build company.  I can't find builders anymore who don't offer design services...

Oct 11, 17 12:15 pm

I see a lot of companies offering design services, but those services are only provided on dinky projects.  They seem to limit their design staff to small projects that could almost be done without a licensed professional, or are very simple.  They're still bidding on work done by Architects.  

Oct 11, 17 12:57 pm

I'd love to see more designers start to take on build responsibilities, rather than the other way around.

The current system seems to prioritize offloading liability over actually getting shit done.

Oct 11, 17 1:01 pm

I'm thinking about this tduds.  I have a potential partner with lots of experience working as a foreman for a big company who can handle the build portion (collaboratively)... and my existing design business would simply become design/build and I'd continue to handle the design work.  He is cool and appreciates design.  I'm just nervous about the big investment. He also wants 25% of the company + a modest salary.  I offered him 0 ownership + 50% of "build" profits + small salary.  He's thinking about it.  I will be putting up at least 100k for equipment and start up costs.  I won't budge on ownership, so if he agrees I may seriously consider the transition.  Just a lot of liability and can't work in my pjs until 3pm anymore :(   Currently, I have enough design projects that If I were building as well I could make my investment money back fairly quickly.  Not even sure if that's enough $ to start up...have more hw to do...

Oct 11, 17 1:24 pm

Design-Build isn't taking over the industry, it always has. Don't even compare the top design-build firms to the gensler's, HOK's Perkins+Will, etc. Take the 50th ranked design-build firm which happens to be FLATIRON CONSTRUCTION, Broomfield, Colo. and they're taking in 419.5 million in revenue. Then take the 50th ranked architecture firm, Cooper Carry out of Atlanta and their revenue is 59.27 million. 

The small time GC's adding a few drafters isn't going to rattle the industry. Design-build has already change the game. 

If you're an owner and you could make one phone call when you have a question instead of 7 to various consultants and receive your project on a more aggressive timeline at lower fees...why wouldn't you request design-build?

Oct 11, 17 1:45 pm

We've had a couple instances over the last 5 years where the owner decided they were better off performing a phase 2 build-out on their own. Each time it was an absolute disaster.


question, is there a way to offer both design/build and design/bid/build depending upon what the client prefers?  For instance, say a designer or architect (design only) offers an option where they create a joint contract with a builder where both separate entities are now attached to the client under one design/build contract.  Separate designer and builder under a single design/build contract for that particular project.   Assume a very carefully written one by a good lawyer....?  

Oct 11, 17 2:56 pm

In other words design/build on a project basis by contract rather than a company structure.


I used to work for an engineer who also had two builder teams. You could hire just the engineers, just the builders, or both. He had them as separate companies with the same owners so could act as design/build or not.

Two ways I can see this being done. 1) Form a joint venture for the project with your builder ... essentially create a company for the project. 2) Either the designer or the builder has the contract with the owner, and hires the other as a consultant. Option 2 is what my firm does on many projects. Usually the Owner hires the GC, and we are contracted by the GC to provide design services.


EI, I've done this as well ...actually often...(contractors hiring me to provide design for their projects), but what about the reverse, where the designer has the client and forms a joint contract
with a gc?


I see that you wrote that possibility, but does it happen often?

Not sure. I know it is possible, but I don't know how often it happens. I don't have any experience with it.


I do a Design / Build project every 4-5 years.  Keep things interesting and can play the market to a point that I can hold the land or work the schedule and timing to optimize my return(s).  Great experience for any designer, I have found it the best place to learn.  Typically act as an owner builder and on occasion hire a GC when my schedule doesn't allow me the time I prefer to have on site.  Being on site is critical for my  satisfaction and ability to control the jobs and minimize fuck ups ( they happen to the best of us but can be minimized with good supervision and clarity in the contract documents ... provided they look at them)

I don't compete with other builders and don't want to as they often bring me clients so I choose not to "pee in my own cereal bowl". The projects are always a bit more adventurous than what I could convince a client to do and use the projects as a bit of an experiment to try new things, details, finishes and building strategies.... so far so good.  It's been a good opportunity to learn, stay relevant, without any catastrophic screw ups.

Oct 11, 17 6:44 pm

seems like every builder is now a design/build company

That's just builders being developers. Developers don't do design/build, they just suck the money (and life) out of everything they touch.

REAL design/build has the architect in the lead. That's why it's called DESIGN/build.

Oct 11, 17 7:02 pm

Design/build is how it always was, the people designing were the ones (in charge of) building. Like the old stonemasons or master builders. They are not taking over, they lost some influence with the invention of the architect that only draws, they are simply claiming back their logical position and are in charge of the money spent, design and construction. Makes sense to me from their point of view.

Oct 12, 17 1:45 am

Clients love design build because it streamlines the process.

 In my area, contractor-driven design-build has taken over the industrial building market and office furniture dealers are taking over interior office and school build-outs with movable wall systems and pre-fab millwork.  There used to be local architecture firms that did these kinds of projects.

Oct 12, 17 1:14 pm
wurdan freo

I would guess the reason more architect's don't lead in design build projects is because many don't fully understand how to cost a construction project or account for the financial risk of a hard bid. I would highly recommend cm or cmar or even pursuing projects on a cost plus basis until you understand the ramifications of cost and budget. 

DB, when contractor led, doesn't need more than a permit set and an archie with solid CA experience. Could it be the same when Archie led...? i don't know.

Oct 12, 17 11:45 pm

Owners and GCs like design build because they get more stuff than they can pay for at the expense of the subcontractors and material suppliers. If you designed the would know exactly what you are getting and the subs would not have to foot the bill....unless they make some mistake, by which on bid day, the oldschool approach was throw out the low and high numbers and plug the average in the middle. Left enough money for the trades to make a living wage

Jul 12, 19 9:59 am
Chad Miller

I see a lot of fast track projects - especially in school design.  

Jul 12, 19 10:21 am

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