Design-build Procurement Route

In building and construction, procurement does not just involve sourcing for goods and services but assigning contractual responsibility for design and construction of projects. There are two ways of allocating that responsibility. Design-build is one of them. Constructional professionals refer to these approaches as “procurement routes”. Hence, you can either choose traditional approach or design and building approach.

The local Councils used to hold the monopoly for design-build contracting. That meant that they could handle every aspect of your project from design to completion. Not anymore.

Over the recent decades, design-build organisations have increased significantly. These organisations have their architects, designers, structural engineers, surveyors, planners and builders.

Traditional Contracting

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It is common to find a client offering a contract to design the development to an architect and giving the building contract to a different company.

Usually, the oversight responsibility remains with the architect who ensures that the building contractor adheres to the building plan.

Furthermore, it is the architect who is responsible for project management, ensuring that the building project delivers results within the budget. Design-build Contracting

Nowadays, many organisations can handle projects from conception through to completion. They have their architects, designers, planners, surveyors, masons, structural engineers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians under one roof.

However, it is not that straightforward. Like, for example, a contractor can design the entire works.

Sometimes, they may incorporate the full design of another contractor.

Alternatively, they may take an unfinished design and complete it. They often agree on the fee with a client on a lump-sum basis.

Moreover, the extent of design responsibility of the professional consultant determines the differences in design-build projects.

Besides, design-build projects can vary according to the extent of initial design in the requirements of the client.

Contractual Responsibility

However, design and build projects require the contractor to have a greater level of design responsibility and input than the traditional contracting.

Besides, the contractor may require consultant help to prepare the client’s requirements. This process is usually time-consuming because not only does it involve preparation of client’s proposal but also tender price.

Before the contract progresses, the proposal and client’s requirements must reconcile. The client’s (or employer’s) requirement consists of the design specs. It is usually incomplete; hence, referred to as RIBA Stage C because it requires the contractor or consultant to develop it further.

The contractor takes responsibility for design elements from the client once the client gives them the contract. Thus, the contractor has full control of the detailed design.

There are two ways the contractor can go about with the design. They can either use they own in-house team of architects or outsource from outside.

However, sometimes the contractor may use the consultants the client appoints to draw up the detailed design of the novation agreement.

Procurement Diagrams

design-build procurement route
Above: A procurement diagram

These are tools construction lawyers use to illustrate who takes part in a new project. Also, these diagrams show how the parties involved in a project relate to each other. It has room to add more parties.

Third Party Rights and Collateral Warranties

Sometimes, those who participate in a project may require guarantees and securities if the project turns out to be complex.

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The Benefits of Design-build Contracting

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You must note that procurement routes are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They will remain a compromise. How, then, does the client benefit from this form of contracting?

  • There are no delays to begin a project
  • One can get lump-sum before the design ends
  • All design and build works occur under one roof
  • The client can discuss practical solutions with the main contractor and sub-contractors and tradesmen during the early stages of design
  • Professional consultants often charge more than contractors because they have limited options for lowering total costs
  • Project works can run concurrently to speed up the project
  • The client can hire consultants who can help out the contractor with design and build projects


  • It is difficult to make comparisons between tender returns if adequate pricing documents are missing from the tender documents
  • A contractor can abuse specs for their benefit by proposing specs of lowest quality just for the sake of fulfilling client’s basic requirements
  • The contractor may compromise the quality if there is inadequate protection by employer’s requirements.

All-in-all, design and build projects offer a variety of advantages. So, it is a good idea to decide what contracting approach is suitable for your project.

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