Design & Build procurement route

What is a Design & Build procurement route?

Unlike the Traditional procurement route, where the design and construction responsibilities are separated, in the Design & Build procurement route, both these responsibilities are assigned to one single contractor. The reason for choosing this procurement route is when the client wishes to have one contractor as the single point of responsibility for design as well as construction. So the contractor bears the risk of designing and constructing the project, usually for a fixed lump sum price.

As a result, the design and construction phases are overlapped enabling the construction to begin before detailed design is complete, thus, leading to reduction in the overall duration of the project.

D&B seq

Sequence of a Design & Build procurement route

A typical project organisational structure for a Design & Build procurement route is given below.

D&B org

Project organisational structure of a Design & Build procurement route

What are the various approaches to a Design & Build procurement route?

  • Sometimes, the client likes to have little or no involvement in the design process. So the contractor has to interpret the client’s requirements on their own and provide a building as a complete package.
  • Most of the times the client will hire a design team to do the preliminary design work and prepare the project brief and tender documents.
  • Sometimes, they also hire a design team to do the concept design. The contractor develops the detailed design from the project brief and specifications. In this way, clients can ensure that their requirements are interpreted correctly by the contractor.
  • Sometimes, the contractor has to assume the responsibility of the design team hired by the client in order to prepare the detailed design. This is done by means of novation agreements, which basically transfers the clients role to the contractor.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Design & Build procurement route?

The advantages are as follows:

  • The client has to deal with only one firm i.e. the contractor as a single point of contact for both the design as well as construction aspects of the project instead of dealing with multiple contacts.
  • Risk to the client is greatly reduced and transferred to the contractor.
  • There is a certainty in the price prior to the beginning of construction.
  • Total project time for design as well as construction phase is reduced due to their overlapping.
  • The contractor can work with an integrated approach to design and construct the project.

The disadvantages are as follows:

  • Comparing the bids is difficult as each bidder will design differently resulting in varying prices and project timelines.
  • Preparing an adequate and comprehensive project brief is difficult.
  • There is no evaluation of the design done by the contractor, unless the client hires a separate design team to evaluate the contractor’s design.
  • If the client changes the scope at a later stage, it can be expensive.
  • The aesthetics of the final product may not be appealing as the contractor will focus more in optimising the costs. As a result, Quality may also get compromised.

Reference: RICS Professional Guidance, UK: Developing a construction procurement
strategy and selecting an appropriate route, 1st edition, guidance note


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