For most small building projects, like an addition to a home or even a new home, the two most common ways to get the project designed and built are using the “traditional” Design-Bid-Build method, and the Design-Build method. The most obvious difference in the two is clearly the lack of the word “bid” in the second method.
Each project delivery method has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things you should know about these project delivery methods so that you can make the best choice to suit your particular circumstances.
The Design-Bid-Build method has been the traditional way of delivering a project for about the last 100 years. General contractors and architects are therefore very familiar with the process.
Using this method, the owner first retains an architect to prepare design and construction drawings that will be given to a select group of contractors who will provide proposals for building what is shown on the plan, typically stated as a lump-sum not-to-exceed price including all work necessary to build what is shown on the plans.
The advantage of using this method is that, if proposals are presented in a uniform fashion, they can be compared to each other to determine which contractor is proposing the lowest price to build the project. Your architect can help you determine the format in which bid proposals are expected to be received, including instructions for hours of operation, use of the existing building or the use of the property during construction, and how you wish to see the pricing broken down by trade so that a valid comparison of the proposals can be made.
The downside of this method is that exact pricing is unknown until the design process is completed. You can get preliminary pricing based on preliminary drawings, but you can’t get final pricing until the drawings include all the things that you wish to have in your project.
The quality of proposals can vary greatly. Without proper control of the bidding process it may be difficult or even impossible to compare the bids.
A good strategy is to meet with and prequalify contractors to determine their availability and willingness to build your project before spending the time it takes them to put together a proposal. It is strongly advised that you consider more than merely low price in selecting your contractor. Spend some time speaking with your prospective contractors to see if the chemistry is right. The last thing you want to have is a contractor working on your house who you don’t even like or don’t feel you can trust.
The second method is called design-build. This is actually the way that most projects got built until about 100 years ago, yet many architects and contractors are not entirely familiar with how the process works. In fact, the term has different meanings for different people, and regulations vary from state to state. You should familiarize yourself with the requirements in your state before opting for this project delivery method.
Using this method, the building owner retains a single entity to provide both design services and construction services based on the owner’s expectations, objectives, and goals for the project. This method has the advantage of providing a single party responsible for performing all the work, and it requires that the design entity and the contracting entity have clear expectations of what each party is going to provide and how they are to be compensated. So, it’s very important for the owner to be able to clearly state what their expectations for the project are before the design process begins.
In the design-bid-build model, the building owner has a direct contract with the architect and a separate contract with the contractor, and each is tied to the other through their contractual responsibilities to the owner, ie. there is no direct contract between the architect and the contractor.
In the design-build model, the architect and contractor have a written agreement between them, and together, a single contract with the owner. Depending how the contracts are written, the architect has no direct contract with the owner.
In certain cases, as in New Jersey, the architect cannot disregard their professional obligations to the building owner. The licensing regulations are meant to protect the consumer, and contain certain statutory language that must be included in a design-build contract between the architect and the contractor, with similar required language that must be included between the design-build entity and the owner stating that the owner maintains the right to contact the architect directly anytime during the design and construction of their project, regardless of who pays for the design.
Tthe AIA contract documents is clear on architects obligation in interpreting and deciding matters considering performance under and requirements of the contract documents. Interpretations by the architect must be consistent with the intent of and reasonably inferable from the contract documents and the architect should endeavor to secure faith performance by both the owner and the contractor showing no partiality to either. And the architect’s decision on aesthetic matters is considered final if those decisions are consistent with the intent expressed in the contract documents.