Design-Build vs. Traditional Construction: What’s the Difference?

by | May 8, 2018 | Design Build

There are currently two dominating methods of construction in the United States – the traditional building method and the design-build method. If you chose to undertake a major building or renovation project just a few decades ago, you probably had to separately hire and manage an architect, designer, and contractor as a start.

Being cast in the role of the middleman and manager of your project is not only inefficient, but also more expensive. A Penn State study on various construction delivery methods found that the design-build approach can save 6 percent on project costs while significantly shortening completion time.

So, what is the difference between design-build and traditional construction? While one may remain the most widely-used form of construction, the other meets the growing needs of property owners who want to reduce costs, compress delivery times, and enhance the quality of their construction projects.


Traditional Construction

Also commonly referred to as “Design-Bid-Build,” this remains the most traditional process for construction projects in the U.S., where the owner will separately contract with a designer and building contractor. A design firm is hired to deliver ready-to-use design plans, and then the owner will solicit bids from contractors to complete the work.

There is no contractual relationship or obligation between the designer and builder, and the landowner bears all responsibility for the completeness of the design documents. Likewise, an owner should have some technical knowledge and be prepared to spend time and resources managing their own project.



By its definition, “Design-Build” refers to the process in which one entity will bear sole responsibility for both the design and construction of your project. There is just one contract for services and the company that you hire will either perform all of the services in-house or will subcontract out certain specialized services to other companies.

Design-build is characterized by a high degree of collaboration among design and construction professionals. The company can simultaneously receive input on design and feedback from multiple trades as the project progresses. There are many benefits to using the design-build method of construction, and various studies have quantified these benefits by comparing it against its more traditional counterpart.


Design-Build vs. Traditional Construction

When you choose between design-build and traditional construction, it helps to have the facts. Fortunately, there are plenty available. Studies conducted by the Construction Industry Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University all conclude that using the design-build method provides superior results from other construction options in terms of:


Cost. All studies that compare construction methods conclude that the cost of design-build is markedly less. Cost growth with design-build is up to 5.2% less, and unit cost is roughly 6% less with design-build.

Schedule. When your design and construction team are working together, there will be a much more streamlined schedule. This will result in fewer bottlenecks and more opportunities for concurrent work. Studies prove that design-build projects complete significantly faster (up to 33%) than traditional construction projects.

Change orders. Building projects today are becoming more complex. When there is a disconnect between the design and construction phase, the lack of a cohesive team could lead to issues. Change orders can cause delays and be costly. Design-build results in less change orders since there is greater collaboration from start to finish.

Quality of work. Meeting the goals and requirements of the end-user should be paramount, and some traditional construction projects miss this mark completely. Schedule and cost delays could negate the purpose of a project, and a lack of communication between design and construction could create lasting problems. Design-build is proven to reduce these risks and produce a higher quality of work.


K-Con’s Design-Build Projects for Government and Commercial Clients

K-Con Inc. is a premier design-build contractor of government and commercial projects. Our metal design-build projects are completed up to 33% faster than traditional construction and typically result in costs savings of 6-10%.

We are a member of the Design Build Institute of America and practice collaboration among partners through each step of a project, which minimizes conflicts, delays, and additional expense. Our unique 5 “D” approach to design-build creates a winning formula for the success of your project. Contact us now with any questions or get started with your next project.