Design-Build: A Quick Explanation

The process for residential remodeling has evolved significantly over the last decade. One major effect of this change has been the rise of the more cost-conscious design-build firms that are as involved in the actual construction as they are in the designing and planning of the remodels.  Residential construction professionals looking to branch out into the remodeling business should keep in mind that these days, they are as likely to be hired by an architect or design firm as by a general contractor.


Prior to the housing bubble crash of 2007-2009, residential remodeling was an involved yet leisurely process of drawing up the plans, submitting them for bids to three or four contractors, and then doing the build. This model allowed homeowners to dream big and worry about negotiating more reasonable prices later. But it also often led to seriously over-budget bids,which were usually handled one of two ways: phone the bank to arrange a higher credit line—which is what most people did, or have the designer scale back the plan and draw up another expensive set of documents—which rarely happened. The design-bid-build process worked well until the days of easy credit were ended by the housing crash. At this point, homeowners started looking for a more cost-effective process.


Today, homeowners are likely to begin with a firm budget and a few ideas. Their next step is to contact a company that offers both the design and the contracting services in-house. Homeowners then collaborate with the designer to craft a remodel that fits their needs, fulfills, their hopes, and stays under budget. Because there is no bidding and re-planning phase, construction can begin as soon as the plans are drawn up. Design-build projects tend to move more quickly and project completion takes much less time.

When money’s no object, homeowners gladly opt for the design-bid-build process. But for the majority of budget-conscious clients, the design-build process is their preferred option. Residential construction subcontractors seeking jobs in the lucrative remodeling market need to network with the designers and architects who have spearheaded the design-build revolution.

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