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Design-Bid-Build vs Design-Build vs Architect-Led

April 30th, 2023

By Sofia Alonso

5 min read

Modern Style Custom Home by AV Architects and Builders in Great Falls Northern Virginia

Building a new home is a significant investment, and choosing the right construction method is one of the first decisions you must make in the process. Many people don’t even know that there are multiple methods to designing and building a new home. 

Design-Bid Build, Design-Build, and Architect-Led Design-Build, which is a specific type of Design-Build, are the three most often employed techniques in construction. Each of these methods approaches the design and construction process differently and while they have their similarities, they also have their own pros and cons. 

As an established Architect-Led Design-Build firm, we have been making our clients’ dreams a reality for over 20 years using our proven turnkey process 

In this article, we will explore the differences between Design-Bid Build and Design-Build and explain what Architect-Led means. 

Whether you prioritize, cost-effectiveness, or customization, understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each approach can help you make an informed decision on which method is the best fit for your project goals. 



What is Design-Bid Build?

Design-Bid Build is the most traditional method of new home construction because it . If you choose this method, you will need to research, select, and hire an architect who is licensed in your desired state of residence to design the architectural plans for your new house. 

The architect you hire will create a set of architectural plans that include what is called construction documents or CDs, which provide the necessary information to obtain the required building permits for your county.

However, these architectural plans do not typically include structural drawings so after obtaining the architectural plans, you will need to hire a structural and civil engineer to complete the design phase of the project. 

The construction documents, structural plans, and civil plans are all necessary to get accurate bids for the project. Additionally, you may need to hire a kitchen designer as many architects do not do kitchen design.


The Design-Bid Build Construction Process

Once you have secured the architectural and structural plans, you’re ready to move on to the next phase which is selecting a general contractor to carry out the construction of your new home project. This is known as the bidding process.

During the bidding process, you send your plans to general contractors who will provide you with a bid for your project. It can typically take about 30 days to receive your estimate. The bid will include a base price for the home as well as a list of allowances for the unspecified finishes. 


The Disadvantages of an Design-Bid Build Construction Process

The issue that many people have with this traditional method is that oftentimes there are not enough specifications for the finishes to result in accurate bids and estimates. This means the bid will often come back with a bunch of allowances for all of the items that are open-ended and not yet specified meaning you are more likely to go over your initial budget. 

One tip to get an accurate bid is to ensure that you know what is and what is not included in the bid. Don’t just look at the bottom line number because the cheapest price is not always the best. It is essential to look for the bid package that has the most detail, including an itemized bid.

Tall Ceiling in Great Room of Modern Style Custom Home by AV Architects and Builders in Great Falls Northern Virginia

What is Design-Build Construction?

The Design-Build method, on the other hand, is a newer and more streamlined construction delivery method. With this approach, you, the client, hire a single firm that will handle both the design and construction of the project from start to finish. Ideally, the firm you select will have an in-house design team, including an architect, so that you will not need to hire one yourself. 


The Advantages of Design-Build Construction 

This method is known to be faster and more efficient than the traditional Architect-Bid Build method as there is only one point of contact for the client allowing for no disconnection between the design and construction team.

Another advantage is that design-build is generally more cost effective than the architect-bid build method because of the economy of scales, one business doing both services for you and can therefore charge less of a markup. This also means there is less risk of going over your budget. 

When opting for a design-build firm, consider which type of builder your firm is and make sure it is the best fit for your project goals. 



What is the Architect-Led Advantage?

The Architect-Led method is a type of Design-Build where the firm’s in-house architect leads the entire project from design to construction. 

The lead architect will create a detailed set of plans that include both architectural and structural drawings. This eliminates the need for the client to hire a separate structural engineer. 

Additionally, the architect will work closely with the client to determine their desires for finishes, from everything such as cabinets and lighting to appliances and flooring. This method allows for greater customization as the architect can work with the client to design a home that meets their specific needs.

The bidding process in Architect-Led is similar to Design-Bid Build, but the architect will be involved in reviewing the bids with the client to ensure that no detail is overlooked and every minuscule customization is accounted for. 

Because the selections have been made prior to starting construction, using the Architect-Led Design-Build method ensures that the client receives the most accurate bid that includes all the necessary details to price their project. 

In an Architect-Led Design-Build firm, your architect remains at the head of the project until its completion. This means that all changes run through the architect/owner so that the best possible result can still be achieved. 

This puts far less pressure on the client to make lasting decisions without having the necessary expertise to rely on. With greater control from someone who has a clear understanding of the building process, engineering and architectural design, the integrity of the resulting structure is maintained. 

The level of communication between the different team members in an architect-led design-build firm is a major part of why this model is the most seamless of all. The collaboration amongst the experts in the architect-led design-build firm can help to avoid misunderstandings and errors down the line, making for a smoother construction process overall. They are all on the same team and their goals are aligned – delivering the client the custom home of their dreams.

Great Room of Modern Farmhouse Style Custom Home by AV Architects and Builders in Great Falls Northern Virginia

Which Construction Method Should You Choose to Build Your New Home?

Overall, there are multiple construction methods available for building a new home, including Design-Bid Build, Design-Build, and Architect-Led. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages so it is crucial to understand the differences and weigh them against your project goals before making a decision. 

The traditional Design-Bid Build method requires hiring separate architects, structural engineers, and contractors, resulting in a more-time consuming and costly process. 

In contrast, the Design-Build method offers a more streamlined process with one point of contact for the client and greater cost efficiency. 

The Architect-Led method is a type of Design-Build that allows for greater customization and eliminates the need to hire a separate structural engineer. 

Ultimately, the choice of construction method will depend on your priorities, budget, and project goals. 

At AV Architects + Builders, we design and build modern homes utilizing, what we call, the Master Builder approach. Our turnkey process is what you need for single-point accountability and minimizing all the stress of building a new home. You’ll be guided from start to finish by our team of Master Builders … from helping you find a perfect lot to handing you the keys. Consider us an all-in-one solution!

Contact us to schedule a free consultation and start your Architect-Led custom home journey today.

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9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
(703) 865-5065