Planning a new construction or renovation project can be quite intimidating. There are many factors to consider, all of which can have a big impact on whether your project unfolds on time, on budget, and according to your vision. The approach you take to hiring help is perhaps one of the most important. 

In this matter, it often comes down to one key question: should you choose a Design-Build approach, or Design-Bid-Build? But to make that decision, you first need to know the difference between the two. In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of each and help you learn which approach consistently yields the best results.

What is Design-Bid-Build?

Design-Bid-Build describes the old school, multi-stage process that is carried out by two main teams. The first is the architect, who prepares all of the design plans. Next, the project is put up to bid on by contractors, who will fulfill the building phase of the work. The two teams may communicate a bit once construction begins, but the two generally work only on what’s outlined in their respective contracts. 

Risks of Design-Bid-Build

The common theory is that opening the project to bidding will allow clients to get the best price on construction, lowering total project costs. Unfortunately, this rarely pans out. That’s because the separated nature of the work phases typically leads to many more complications, which rake up extra expenses. 

Without the insights of a construction team, architects can often plan out a design that doesn’t really align with budget constraints, material availability, or other practicalities. Architects also bear no contractual obligations to the contractor, so they do not tailor their work to facilitate a smoother construction process. This will commonly result in problem after problem once building begins. In the end, it’s the client who pays the price, as all of the finger pointing and lack of teamwork only exacerbates delays and costs. 

The biggest risks of Design-Bid-Build can be summarized as:

  • Miscommunication
  • Weak logistics and coordination
  • Impractical design planning
  • Poor design execution
  • Cost bloating
  • Conflicts of interests
  • Blame shifting

What is Design-Build?

Design-Build was conceived as a solution to all of the chaos that frequently arises in the traditional approach. It is carried out by a single team - one company that has both the architects and builders in-house. Both are bound by the same contract, and have mutual interests in ensuring the whole project progresses smoothly.

Benefits of Design-Build

Design-Build gives the team the advantage of a highly coordinated process from the start, where both experts can advise each other and plan a design that is in sync with everyone’s needs. Budget, schedule, materials, and feasibility are all major considerations throughout the design’s development.

Preparation for the building stage can begin earlier, as the contractor will have a clear idea of the project’s demands well ahead of time. This collaborative approach typically gives the contractor a better understanding of the design vision and what the client wants out of their build. 

All of these efficiencies result in a process that runs like a well-oiled machine. Both parties work together to keep complications at bay, and the lack of an adversarial dynamic puts the focus on the client’s desired outcome. 

The biggest benefits Design-Build approach can be summarized as:

  • More practical design planning
  • Teamwork from day one
  • Earlier and more effective construction preparation
  • Prevention of complications and delays
  • Cost containment
  • Shared interests under the same contract

Letter Four Delivers an Optimized Design-Build Process

As LA’s premier firm, Letter Four has chosen the Design-Build approach to get the best results for our clients. We believe that a high level of collaboration is simply a must when it comes to delivering great designs that can be built with ease and satisfy every need. 

*Note: While we stand behind Design-Build as the best choice for a project approach, we do fulfill Design-Bid-Build contracts as well. If we are enlisted as the architect for a Design-Bid-Build project, rest assured that we go the extra mile to provide enhanced collaboration within the constraints of the methodology. 

Letter Four’s business model takes it all a step further, with a 50/50 ownership between our Architect and our Contractor. Many other firms claim to offer a Design-Build approach, but they bring in a separate team to fulfill one of the services. The fully in-house structure of our firm enables us to provide a truly synced, one-company service that can achieve more and do it better. It’s the Letter Four Difference. 

Our years of experience have allowed us to refine our process, perfecting the formula for project success. We use the following steps to provide unparalleled service on every build.

1. Due Diligence

We prepare by gathering all of the information needed to evaluate goals, challenges, and opportunities. This includes an analysis of the property in question, as well as timelines, budget, and red tape requirements. 

2. Conceptual Design

We explore design options and develop the first floor plans, as well as concepts for both the interior and exterior. Inspiration imagery and sketches are produced for client approval. 

3. Pricing

Preliminary pricing is assessed with respect to recent pricing trends and the input of our construction team. We set pricing for optional elements and break into phases, if appropriate. This is the first of three pricing exercises.

4. Schematic Design

The approved conceptual design is built upon in the form of a 3D model, including floor plans, site plans, and exterior elevations. This helps our clients get a more realistic feel for how the design will take shape when constructed.

5. Design Development

Technical design specs are documented, enabling us to coordinate with engineers, and submit for plan check with the Department of Building and Safety. The end of this phase is the second time we bid our client’s projects. It’s the perfect time for an in-depth budget check as we now have consultant drawings and calculations.

6. Construction Documents

All drawings and other documents are created that are required to build the project as designed. These detailed documents are also used to finalize pricing and prepare the construction contract.

7. Permitting and Approvals

We guide the project through the process of gaining permits and approvals from all authorities needed to greenlight the build. For retail and commercial clients, we also secure landlord and brand-level approvals before seeking building permits.

8. Interior Design

Our interior designers work to create a space that is beautiful, functional, and inspiring, paying attention to key features such as flooring, tile, fixtures, and more. The construction team is consulted on selections to guarantee a design that can be perfectly executed. 

9. Construction Admin

Once building begins, our firm delivers a seamless experience by maintaining clear communication and cooperation between our architecture and construction teams. Architecture representatives provide on-site guidance to the builders, helping with drawing interpretation and decision making. 

Following these steps allows us to give our clients an amazing Design-Build experience that offers the highest degree of simplicity and success. Like what you see? Then let’s talk. You’re invited to view our consultation options and project action plans to decide how you’d like to kick things off. We’re eager to hear more about your project and explore what our firm can do for you!