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Market research indicates that design-build project delivery is on the rise nationally.[1] As design-build projects become more prevalent, more and more design professionals are being approached to team with contractors for design-build projects. Some design professionals, anxious to establish themselves as the “go to” firm for design-build projects, have jumped into the deep end of design-build procurement with varying degrees of success. Other design professionals, uncertain of the risks associated with a design-build project, have passed on potentially lucrative opportunities. The design professional’s view of design-build project delivery is reflected by a recent study by McGraw Hill Construction indicating that less than one-fifth of the architects surveyed worked on design-build projects.[2]
The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework for the “old hands” and novices alike to understand, assess, and manage the risks associated with participating on a design-build team. There are several factors that the prudent design professional ought to evaluate when preparing to participate in design-build procurement:

  • With whom should the design professional partner on a design-build project?
  • How should the design-build partnership be structured?
  • When should the design professional negotiate the structure of the design-build partnership?
Generally, the most successful design-build relationships are built on past experience on traditional design-bid-build projects involving the same contractor and design professionals, where the parties collaborate in a true partnership to define and allocate risk in a fair and equitable manner before a proposal is submitted.[3]

[1] See, generally, “Design-Build Project Delivery Market Share and Market Size Report” dated May 2014, Reed Construction Data/RSMeans Consulting,, last accessed February 5, 2016; see, also, “Research Finds Continued Growth of Design-Build” dated June 26, 2014,, last accessed February 5, 2016.

[2] “Project Delivery Systems: How They Impact Efficiency and Profitability in the Buildings Sector,” August 2014, McGraw Hill Construction,, last accessed February 5, 2016.

[3] This paper focuses on issues of particular importance to the design professional associated with structuring their involvement in design-build projects. For a more comprehensive listing of issues to be considered when a design professional is considering a partnering relationship with a contractor for a design-build project, a Joint Committee of the American Institute of Architects and the Associated General Contractors of America have published an insightful “Design-Build Teaming Checklist” which identifies a number of issues that ought to be considered when partnering for a design-build project., last accessed February 5, 2016.

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