Hiring an Architect vs. a Design-Build Remodeling Company

Learn why a design-build approach produces the best results

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Your choices when building a new custom home or remodeling your current space are nearly limitless — restricted only by your budget, building codes, and space limitations.

But before you dive into planning, you have arguably the most important choice of the entire process: Should you work with an architect (often called the traditional design-bid-build method) or a design-build company?

Learn why the design-build approach is nearly always the better choice.

The difference between design-bid-build and design-build

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The architect design-bid-build method is a non-collaborative approach. The architect will design the project and once it’s complete, you’ll be in charge of sending the documents to various contractors to bid on and complete the project.

Design-build is different. It’s a one-stop-shop and involves collaboration between you, the architect, and contractors.


Architect design-bid-build

  • You hire an architect to design your remodel or new construction

  • The architect creates design drawings

  • Your design documents will include a price bid, but the architect does not build anything

  • You’ll put the design out for bid to contractors. It’s very common for the contractors to give a different total cost than what was estimated by the architect

  • If based on the new quote you want to change the design to fit your budget, you’ll go back to the architect to update the design

  • Time to take the designs back to your contractors for a new bid!

  • The price is often still different than what was quoted by the architect, which may force you to update your total budget

  • Many homeowners feel nervous about the cost of the project changing so much - and end up signing a contract with the lowest bidder

  • You’ll be in charge of managing timelines and all communication between the architect and contractors throughout the process

  • Despite your best efforts, many of these projects go way over budget—there’s just no cohesive planning to help prevent it

  • Timelines often get pushed out, leading to a longer overall process

  • Going with the lowest bid typically results in poor results that don’t live up to your expectations


Design-build

  • Interview with a company to discuss your project and your goals

  • Work with your chosen company’s architects and designers to create your drawings and make product material selections

  • Once plans are finalized, a fixed-fee contract is created and signed

  • The design-build firm will apply and pay for all permits, create a detailed construction schedule, and start working

  • The firm will keep you informed on the project status throughout

  • With a fixed-fee contract and set timeline, your project will be completed on time and on budget

  • Since all project players have been working closely together from the start, the project will be finished exactly as you imagined


Benefits of a design-build remodeling approach

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Just by comparing these two processes, it’s easy to see why so many homeowners are going away from the traditional architect method and choosing design-build. Let’s explore the benefits in detail.

1. Better cost control

When designing or remodeling your home, the goal should always be to end up with a space that’s uniquely yours, one that fits your needs and is filled with elements that make you happy.

Here at Forward Design Build Remodel, we always encourage our clients to make design decisions based on what they like, not whether or not it’s a good investment. Still, we understand that budget is a factor.

That’s where architectural firms may fail their clients — they’re simply not as experienced with project pricing. They aren’t the ones doing the actual construction of their designs, so they don’t really know the current cost of supplies, materials, and buildout.

A design-build company is different. The architects and designers are directly involved with the construction of all their remodeling projects. They are acutely aware of building costs and as a result, the scope of your project, including the cost, will be made based on tangible information.

One study by Penn State even notes that the design-build method results in a savings of approximately 6% of the project costs! The research goes on to say that it also significantly shortens the project completion time.

2. Faster project completion

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The design-build process is inherently more efficient. The entire project can be completed in a shorter amount of time because:

  • Bid time is reduced

  • Project scheduling can begin before design is finalized

  • There transition time from design to construction is fast

  • Potential construction problems can be uncovered early

  • Better collaboration and communication keeps everything moving smoothly

Alternatively, every step of the design-bid-build process will be longer. Just consider what happens after you get your designs from the architect. The process involves…

  • Interviewing contractors

  • Securing bids and subcontractor bids on your own

  • Waiting for estimates

  • Modifying or even going back to your architect for re-design to fit your budget

3. Open, honest, and frequent communication

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On your own, staying on top of your remodeling project can be difficult. You’ll act as go between with your designer and contractor and details might get lost or misinterpreted in the process. Understanding where the project is at in any given week can be difficult.

It doesn't have to be this way, though! The design-build method fosters teamwork and lends itself to excellent communication and transparency.

Since the designer and builder share an office, they’ll be in constant communication from the very beginning. Design ideas can be quickly and accurately vetted. The production manager can easily determine if the design is “build-able” and whether or not it fits within the scope of your budget.

Having just one source helps ensure everyone is always on the same page. You’ll know what’s going on at all times during the process.

4. Single source of greater accountability

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With a design-bid-build method, you’re burdened with a lot of the responsibility for making sure the project goes correctly. You have to…

  • Select the architect

  • Finalize the design

  • Bid the project

  • Select a contractor

  • Act as an intermediary throughout the entire project

Since design and construction are managed by separate companies, finger pointing often occurs — especially when things go wrong. When these errors lead to additional costs, it often results in you, the homeowner, having to pick up the tab.

The design-build approach is different. You’ll retain total control over the project, but have a single source that’s working closely with you to empower and collaborate with you.

Since both the design and construction of your project are handled by one company, there’s one source of accountability for all aspects of the project. And greater accountability leads to greater results.

5. Better quality of work

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When you look at all these benefits together, it’s easy to understand why the design-build method leads to an overall higher quality of work and a better result.

  • The process removes any ambiguity that might come up in material and construction specifications

  • The design will be built to the exact specifications you envisioned because the designer and contractor are working so closely together

  • Any mistakes will be completely resolved

  • Everyone on the project will be working together and feel a greater sense of responsibility to get it right

See for yourself!

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At Forward Design Build Remodel, we offer a one-stop solution for homeowners looking to remodel, create space with a home addition, or build a new home. Our professional design and construction experts work together under one roof and are here to help you achieve the home of your dreams.

Through our proven design-build process, we’ll help you accomplish all phases of your project faster, more efficiently, and with better results.

Learn more about the benefits of design build or contact us to get started.