What’s the Difference Between a General Contractor and a Design-Build General Contractor?

Male contractor working on a house construction's budget and design.

In today’s world, there are generally two types of ways to execute a project. Traditional construction, also known as Design-Bid-Build (DBB) and Design-Build (DB). Homeowners who are remodeling or building need to consider not only the design but also the quality of construction of the project. Because of this, it’s smart to have a collaborative design-build team that gives attention to the myriad of details of the process. Design-build refers to a new project delivery system in the construction/renovation industry. It’s where the same entity handles both the design and the construction phase. Traditional construction entails a separate contractor in charge of the design and another one in charge of construction and build. Here are the differences between a general contractor and a design-build general contractor that you should know. 

Who is a General Contractor? 

A general contractor is an individual who is responsible for the day-to-day operations and oversight of a construction project. In addition to this general role, a general contractor is responsible for acting as the intermediary between the design team, the construction workers, as well as the owner of the underlying project. As the liaison, a general contractor will communicate with all those individuals and organizations involved in the project. 

A general contractor is usually on top of the entire project. He will assess the project and develop a program of works that will guide the workers from the planning stage down to completion. Experienced contractors have a strong understanding of the different aspects of construction. They are also well-versed with the necessary building permits, timelines for completion, various building materials and equipment, as well as manpower requirements. General contractors ensure that a project is done on time, within budget, and in a safe manner.

Who Needs a General Contractor? 

You need a general contractor for large projects to oversee and supervise the day-to-day operations. General contractors make sure that all parties involved are on the same page and are working in unison towards its completion. With the right contractor, homeowners can rest assured that their renovation or redesign plans are implemented successfully. As a homeowner, the only thing you need to do is to choose the best contractor. See to it that he completely understands your intentions. 

Who is a Design-Build General Contractor? 

Design-Build is a construction delivery method that provides owners with a single point of contact for both the design and construction phases of a project. One entity holds single-source responsibility and contractual risk for every aspect of a build. This is from estimation, assessments, and pre-construction to architecture, schematics, engineering, subcontracting, construction, as well as post-construction. This entity, the Design-Builder, manages all contracts with companies, such as subcontractors, equipment vendors, and materials providers.

Unlike in other construction methods, owners contract only with the design-build general contractor. In the case of a general contractor, also known as design-bid-build, you contract with different entities for architectural design and construction. A design-build general contractor brings together all elements of a project. Architects work in coordination with other members of the project team. In other methods, architectural design is completed separately. This can sometimes result in unforeseen costs and delays during the construction process. But Design-Build allows your project team to provide insights into the costs and constructability of different designs. The end result is a sound design, a defined budget, as well as a streamlined schedule. 

Team of contractors wearing hard hats while working on a home construction project.

The Key Difference Between a General Contractor and a Design-Build General Contractor 

For general contracting, the owner must manage two separate contracts which all too often create an adversarial relationship between the designer and the contractor. If something goes wrong or an unforeseen circumstance requires changes, the designer and contractor blame one another for the cost overruns or schedule changes. This often leads to litigation and delays which add to the project cost.

For design-build general contracting, the owner manages only one contract with a single point of responsibility. The designer and contractor work together from the beginning, as a team. They provide unified project recommendations to fit the owner’s schedule and budget. The entire team addresses any changes. This leads to collaborative problem-solving and innovation, not excuses or blame-shifting. Single-source contracting is the fundamental difference between design-build and the old ways. However, equally important is the culture of collaboration inherent in design-build.

What are the Benefits of a Design and Build Contract?

Here are the benefits of design-build contractors that you should know:

Minimizes Risk and Improves Clarity 

This method helps to minimize risks for the project owner because it reduces the number of points of contact. Now that there is only one point of contact, the design-builder, there is also only one point of responsibility. The project owner does not take the risk that there are multiple parties he will need to go after. Or that he will not be able to tell which party is at fault for a particular defect or flaw. As such, it also clarifies the remedies available to the project owner. This is because there is only one party who could be liable.

Encourage Innovation and a More Holistic Approach to Construction

This method also encourages the design-builder to take more innovative and best-value approaches to designing and constructing the building. This is only possible because all the members of the project team, both the designer and the contractor, come together early on in the process to address potential issues that may arise in the future. This also reduces the risk of design errors, which take more time as well as money to rectify later on. Moreover, since the contractor is also the designer, the design can be easily customized to suit the actual site conditions.

Total Accountability 

When the designer is also the one who builds the project, much more attention is given to the plan, pricing, as well as schedule. This can make the result better than when the designer and the contractor are from different groups.

Another benefit of making one team accountable for the whole project is that all aspects can be taken into account early on in the process. This includes labor fees, construction costs, utilities, landscaping allowances, as well as all other costs related to completing the project. This helps the contractor submit a more accurate quotation to the owner so as not to suffer from shortages later on. This is seldom achievable with just general contractors. 

At Carlyle Construction, we are Design-Build General Contractors who specialize in high-quality design, construction, as well as renovation services. The central element of our decision-making process is the financial value of your project. Contact us to learn more and how to start! 

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