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Last edited 20 Sep 2021
Design and build procurement route
Design and build is a term describing a procurement route in which the main contractor is appointed to design and construct the works, as opposed to a traditional contract, where the client appoints consultants to design the development and then a contractor is appointed to construct the works.
The contractor is responsible for the design, planning, organisation, control and construction of the works to the employer’s requirements. The employer gives the tenderers the ‘Employer’s Requirements’ and the contractors respond with the ‘Contractor’s Proposals’, which include the price for the works.
Design and build can be seen as giving a single point of responsibility for delivering the entire project. Some clients, however, consider it is only appropriate for simple projects, where design quality is not the main consideration.
The contractor can either be appointed to carry out all of the design work, or if the client wishes to have greater influence over the design, a concept design and outline (or performance) specification can be prepared by a consultant employed by the client, and then the contractor is appointed to complete the design and carry out the construction.
The contractor may use their own in-house designers to design the building, or they can appoint consultant designers, or the client's designers can be employed by the contractor to complete the design (either by novation or consultant switch).
If the contractor is not appointed at the outset of the project (so that they can contribute to the development of the design from the beginning), they may be appointed through a two-stage process. In the first stage, the contractor is selected on the basis of a fee, preliminaries, overheads and profit.
They then work with the design team (who may be employed either by the contractor or by the client at this stage) to develop the design, on the basis of which a fixed price is negotiated for the second stage; construction, when the design team may be novated to the contractor if the contractor does not already employ them.
Design and build is one of the three procurement routes favoured by the government for publicly-funded projects, as it allows a fully integrated team to work together on the project from the beginning.
Design and build contracts can be awarded on a fixed price, lump sum basis, but price certainty is then dependent on not making any subsequent changes as these could prove to be expensive (as prices charged by the contractor for those changes will not be subject to competition).
It is very important therefore that the client gives a great deal of consideration to the preparation of employer's requirements, and if they have not appointed their own design team, they may wish to appoint independent client advisers to help them do this. Similarly, if any designers appointed by the client are novated or switched to work for the contractor, the client may then wish to appoint independent client advisers to review contractor's design proposals, administer the contract and monitor works on site.
- Where there is a need to make an early start on site – can overlap design and construction
- Where the client wishes to minimise their risk – no responsibility for design
- For technically complex projects which can benefit from the contractor’s expertise
- Where the employer does not want to retain full control over the design development
What are the advantages of design and build?
- Single point of responsibility for design and construction
- Earlier commencement on site
- Early price certainty
- Benefit of contractor’s experience harnessed during design
What are the disadvantages?
- Client may find it hard to prepare a sufficiently comprehensive brief
- Client has to commit to a concept design early
- Variations from the original brief can be difficult to arrange and expensive
- Harder to compare tenders and determine if they offer value for money
- Ease of fabrication may be prioritised above aesthetic quality
See also: Design and build - pros and cons.
Design and build contracts include:
- Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) DB 16 (also JCT Major project contract and JCT Constructing excellence contract).
- The Association of Consultant Architects ACA/2.
- Government Contracts GC/Works 1 (single stage or two stage) (NB: GC Works contracts are no longer being updated by the government).
- Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Design and Construct (this has now been withdrawn in favour of NEC3).
- The New Engineering Contract (NEC) Engineering and Construction Contract
NB: 'Develop and construct' is a variation on design and build, in which most of the design is completed before the contractor is appointed. This avoids some of the potential problems of design and build, but also misses some of the opportunities.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Procurement route
- Procurement team
- Traditional contract for construction
- Contract notice.
- Contractor's design portion.
- Construction contract
- Design and build: outline work plan.
- Design and manage procurement route.
- Design Build Finance Transfer (DBFT).
- Design-Build Institute of America DBIA.
- Job order contracting.
- Procurement route options pros and cons.
- Project performance management.
- Two-stage tender
- Management contractor
- Maintenance contract.
- Employer's requirements for building design and construction
- Blyth & Blyth Ltd v Carillion Construction Ltd
- Construction contractor
- Fixed price construction contract
- Lump sum contract.
- Liability for building design.
- London Build 2020: Best Practice in Design and Build panel discussion.
- Employer's agent for design and build
- Design and build: tender
- Construction manager
- Renovate, operate, transfer (ROT).
- Single-stage tender
- Consultant switch
- Contractor's proposals for building design and construction
- Consultant team for design and construction
- JCT Construction management contract
 External references
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