What is a design-build contractor? How would one differ from other contractors and why should you care? What are the pros and cons for you, the homeowner, in dealing with a design-build contractor?
Let’s try to answer all of the above questions.
In the Design-Build business model, your builder is responsible for both the design and the construction phases of the project. Your builder will have plans developed based on your input – your wish list and your budget. Once plans are completed and permits have been secured, the builder will build the project as per the plans and the specifications agreed upon.
This model is different in that you are dealing with a single entity (the design-build contractor) for all the stages of the work, starting with the design phase and all through to completion of the project and beyond. This, as opposed to be dealing with a separate entity (an architect or designer) as plans are developed and only than engaging with a builder to execute the plans.
Why should you care and what are the pros and cons to this model:
Having a single entity accountable is always a plus. There is no ‘passing of the buck’. There is no friction between inflated egos of team members. Nothing is ‘lost in translation’ as the entity that you dealt with to develop the plans is the same one that needs to interpret the plans and do the construction. If there are any issues, there should be no question as to who is answerable to you.
A design-build approach will likely also save you a considerable amount. Many design-build firms subsidies the (potentially substantial) cost of design and use it as a means to get more projects.
Not all design-build firms follow the same, identical model.
Some will have you locked into hiring them for the actual work once they do the design. Others will commit you in a more subtle way, such as have you stated your intent to hire them for the work or including some language to that effect in their paperwork without pointing this out to you.
We strongly advise that you insist on complete freedom to hire whomever you choose for the actual construction once plans are done. Else, you will loose the ability to competitively bid your project and to disengage from the design-build company you hired, should they prove to be lacking in some way.