Advantages of Working with Design Build Firms


Advantages of Working with Design/Build Firms

What are Design Build Firms?

Design build firms (D-B firms) manage both the design and the construction of a project in a single contract. Traditionally, design and build (construction) are separate, with separate bids, contracts, and work, known in the industry as design-bid-build. A design-build project streamlines the approach and results in more effectively managed projects.

Plum Builders, Inc. is a design-build firm. We have developed a proprietary design process that enables us to deliver successful custom home projects time and time again for our clients. Working with our clients through an executed pre-construction services agreement ‘front loads’ the necessary design work and client conversations while simultaneously allowing us to cost out all the design iterations available achieving what we hope is the maximum ‘house’ that both the budget and the site will allow. When we meet a client we bring to the table experience, credentials and a business model that is specifically tied to the creativity and professionalism of the assembled team.

Origin of Design Build Firms


While the specific phrase, “design-build” has been used only the past 30 years or so, the concept has been around for thousands of years, according to the Design-Build Institute of America.

The term “master builder” refers to design-build in its most basic form. Buildings most people will recognize, such as the Parthenon in Athens and the Gothic Royal Church of Saint Denis in Paris, have roots in design-build. The master builders of those structures and others used a process similar to that of today’s design-build firms.

The origins of D-B firms trace back to Ancient History. The idea is that a single individual – a master builder – assumes responsibility for the entire project, start to finish. The project plan includes both design and construction, and the master builder would own both parts.

This was simplistic and resulted in some of the most remarkable historical architecture known today. However, during the Industrial Revolution, as projects became more complex and involved, design and construction separated into two wholly different bodies of work. As a result, design firms began owning both the design and architecture, while construction firms owned the construction and materials.

Today, homeowners turn to D-B firms to manage custom home projects from ideation to completion. The advantages of working with a design build firm are significant when compared to the disjointed and expensive process that involves separate design and construction firms.

The 5 Advantages of Working with Design/Build Firms

1. Better Communication

The most important advantage design build firms have over others involves communication. Traditionally, a project includes an owner, a design firm, a construction firm, and several subcontractors. All of these parties must come together and communicate, which doesn’t always happen on time where time is money. The owner then has to manage the communication and sometimes mediate or resolve issues between the other separate firms.

D-B firms inherently have better communication, because designers, architects, project managers, and builders work together under one roof. As one entity, the team can serve the owner better and manage communication internally. Any communication issues that come up can be handled much more quickly when all parties work for the same company.

Design build firms inherently have better communication, because designers, architects, project managers, and builders work together under one roof.

2.  Streamlined Customer Experience

Instead of having to deal with separate firms, which may have completely different ways of managing the client experience, owners benefit from just one or two points of contact within the same firm.

Over the course of the project, several decisions will need to be made, and the owner will need to discuss changes and options with both teams. Separate design and construction firms may each also have project managers who create unique customer experiences. The result is a potentially confusing and frustrating situation for homeowners.

Design-build firms streamline the experience for owners because they manage both design and construction consistently.

3. More Cost-Effective

Design-build firms generally lower costs for homeowners. There will always be exceptions to that rule, but the way that the projects are run in D-B firms is just more cost effective over the course of the project.

If anything, one of the strongest advantages design-build firms hold in custom home development is that price structure and costs are consistent. On the other hand, when a homeowner works with two separate firms, costs can vary widely, and one firm may charge for certain things that the other does not.

The fee schedules will vary, and that’s one way that costs get out of control. It’s left to the homeowner to manage scope creep and budget and ensure that there are no financial mishaps along the way.

Design-build firms can keep costs under control and reduce the likelihood of serious miscommunications or issues arising from paying two different firms for project services.

4. Shorter Project Timelines

Projects managed with design-build processes also tend to be more efficient, which leads to shorter project timelines. Cleaner hand-offs and clearer communication contribute to a more efficiently managed project than otherwise.

According to the Construction Industry Institute, design build processes speed up construction by 12%, over traditional design-bid-build firms. The delivery speed is 33.5% faster, also. Finally, costs are 6.1% lower.

design build firms stats

Source: Comparison of Project Delivery Methods

5. Higher Quality

Improved communication, processes, budgets, and timelines all contribute to better quality. Higher quality benefits the homeowner most of all, and it’s something we prioritize at Plum Builders. Design build removes the need for the homeowner to play middle man, and places that responsibility back in its rightful place with the master builder.

When design-build firms own projects end to end, they own the outcome. Designers and architects have much more influence over the materials used, and construction is monitored more closely. Change requests and enhancements can be more easily analyzed, priced out, and discussed, when design and construction are part of the same entity.


Design-build has clear advantages over traditional design-bid-build processes. In addition to better communication and client experience, homeowners end up with lower costs, higher quality, and shorter timelines than the alternatives. Learn more about the Plum Builders design-build team here.

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