Design Build

Design Build is an integrated method of project delivery in which the owner contracts with a single source for architecture, engineering and construction.

This method:

  • Controls costs better than other methods
  • Gives the owner more control
  • Allows for fast-tracked scheduling resulting in faster project delivery
  • Improves the quality of workmanship and owner's satisfaction with the finished product


Design-build has its roots in the Renaissance and continued as the accepted approach to design and construction projects until the late 19th century. When the industry began to develop licensing standards for the individual functions of architecture and construction, the more linear process of design-bid-build became more popular. Design-build gained recognition again in the 1980s because owners and practitioners saw clear-cut advantages in the improved ability to predict project outcome in an industry burdened with variables that are difficult to control.

Cost Control

As a design-build firm, Edgewater’s philosophy of project approach revolves around teamwork. Unlike traditional value engineering, which looks for savings after the project has been designed, Edgewater Construction Services strives for value optimization—the selection of the best solutions to fit the project goals and parameters—throughout the design process.

A nation-wide study conducted by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) found design-build to be more effective at controlling costs than both design-bid-build and construction management at risk. The collaborative process allows our project team to accurately evaluate alternative designs, construction methods and materials efficiently and accurately.

Risk Management

The integrated design-build team collaborates on design and construction solutions from the beginning, yielding better information about cost and constructability and preventing the development of a design that does not fit the project budget. This early information also leads to the establishment of a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) sooner than in the design-bid-build process, reducing the owner’s financial exposure in the planning phase. Edgewater Construction Services works toward establishing a two-part agreement in which the owner first contracts for design and preconstruction services leading up to the establishment of the GMP.

Once the guaranteed maximum price is established and accepted, the risk of cost overrun is transferred to the design-builder. The owner retains the majority of the savings if the actual cost is lower than the contracted amount. The flexibility of this delivery system allows the project team to identify a potential savings and transfer that money into scope enhancements, if the owner so chooses. Competitive bidding of trades ensures optimum pricing on all aspects of the work.

Edgewater Construction Services believes that risk should rest with the party that is in the best position to control it. As design-builders, we are prepared to manage the factors that create risk. This skill enables us to deliver high-quality projects on shortened schedules at highly competitive prices.


The overlapping of design and construction activities that takes place in design-build enables the project team to proceed very quickly. Once some basic parameters (such as building footprint and construction type) are established, site and foundation work can begin. Design detailing continues even as the construction is underway. The collaboration between owner and design-builder enables the team to establish firm schedule information at preliminary stages. This gives the owner the opportunity to plan with confidence in the move-in date and holds the design-builder accountable for on-time delivery.

Through effective planning and intensive teamwork, Edgewater has delivered numerous fast-tracked projects in a fraction of the time that would be required using a more linear design and construction process. For customers with projects for which speed of delivery is a critical factor for success, design-build has been the tool that enabled us to meet the project goals.


The same Construction Industry Institute research that found design-build to be better at cost control than other project delivery systems studied also showed the method to produce faster and higher quality results. By studying such quantifiable variables as start-up difficulty, call backs, operation and maintenance costs, and owner satisfaction, the institute found that “design-build overall scored higher than its counterparts,” which included design-bid-build and construction management at risk.

The difference lies in where the responsibility for quality control is placed. In design-build, the design-builder is the single guarantor of quality and, therefore, is highly motivated to ensure that everyone, from the architects to the subcontractors, produces quality work, free from error. By contrast, in the design-bid-build approach, the owner bears the responsibility to ensure that the architectural documents are free from error and relies on the architect to assist in making this guarantee to the contractor. Quality control mechanisms become reactive rather than proactive and include restrictive contractual language, audit and inspection and, occasionally, the legal system.

Edgewater Construction Services works closely with the owner in the planning phase to gain a thorough understanding of the building standards and quality expectations for the project. Then we communicate that directive throughout the team, across disciplines. Strategic use of in-house expertise and prequalification of trades ensures that our team will be capable of producing the desired results. Interdisciplinary peer review at regular intervals allows the team to critique the work from various perspectives and further focus on the quality goals. We encourage subcontractors to call our attention to potential problems or deviations; then we work with them toward proactive resolution. In a design-build project, Edgewater is the sole guarantor of a quality operating facility and we base our reputation on fulfilling that responsibility.

For independent comparative information about Design-build, Construction Management and Design-Bid-Build, visit for information about the 1997 research study undertaken by the Construction Industry Institute (see publication number RS133-1).


Our team approach and estimating systems allows us to “try out” and test a variety of design scenarios early in project development. We review each possibility in terms of function, cost and constructability to determine which options to pursue. By continuously refining the project detail through the use of this process, we move quickly towards a design approach that meets the project goals and creates value for the owner.

Design quality, aesthetics, performance and lifecycle cost – all are important components of a successful design. Above all, a project design should accomplish the owner’s goals and objectives. This is why our design partners spend considerable time listening to the owner and end users to get a thorough understanding of how the building and its environment will be used and how it must perform.