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Making A Stand For A Standard Definition For Design/Build

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Feb 24,2012 @ 12:01 PM

Making A Stand For A Standard Definition For Design/Build

definition of design build



Many businesses in the remodeling and home improvement industries claim to be Design/Builders.  Unfortunately many of these businesses have decided to create their own definitions for what Design/Build is.  This might be because one would have a hard time finding the phrase design/build in a dictionary.  I tried several on line dictionaries and came up empty.  I did however find definitions on the web sites of several industry groups.


So, here are two definitions I found on-line from respected industry groups, and one from me.

Design-Build Institute of America Definition:

“Design-build is a method of project delivery in which one entity - the design-build team - works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion.  Design-build is also known as design/construct and single-source responsibility.”

American Institute of Architects Definition (found on page 4):

“In the design-build approach to project delivery, the owner contracts with a single entity—the designer builder—for both design and construction. The design-build entity can be led by either an architect or a general contractor and can consist of any number of people.”

Shawn McCadden Definition:

“Design/Build refers to a method of project delivery in which a single entity provides to the client or owner all of the services necessary to both design and construct all or a portion of the project with full responsibility to the owner or clients for both the design and the construction.”

Taking a Stand

Confusion about design buildSo if the construction industry has defined Design/Build, and the definitions are mostly consistent, why then do businesses that operate in contrast to those definitions call themselves Design/Builders?  More importantly why does the industry, specifically the remodeling industry, allow them to do so?

I think the entire industry needs to agree on a definition of what design/build is and what it is not, and then strongly defend that definition.  Contractors and all home owners would benefit greatly if there was just one definition to go by.  Here are a few reasons I offer to back up my opinion:

  • Consumers would clearly know what to expect of their contractor if claiming to be a Design/Builder and how the process should work. 
  • Consumers and prospective employees would be able to tell if a business was making false claims very quickly.
  • Businesses seeking to become Design/Builders would know what they would need to change or do differently before adding Design/Build to their company name.
  • Various educational institutions would all be teaching and supporting the same concept.
  • Design professionals and contractors could all be on the same page regarding how the process should work before partnering together.
  • Design/Builders and industry associations could point out those who are diluting the definition.
  • Homeowners would stop expecting the ability to bid out plans created in a design/build process.


"If we do not, at some point one will be imposed on the industry by others who have no clue about our industry. It would be better to get in front of the train and set the agenda instead of dealing with yet another misunderstood situation.....any more lead issues anyone?"

Robert Wright (With permission from LinkedIn discussion on this topic)

No bidding with design build, design build bid



(No offense intended - I disagree with your definition of Design/Build if it allows bidding on your plans.  Doing so isn’t wrong; it’s just not Design/Build if you are separating the design from the build)



I stand strong that there should be just one definition of what Design/Build is for our industry, and therefore, what it is not.  Our industry needs clarity and those we bring into the industry as the future workforce or as future business owners need that clarity as well.  Allowing every contractor the ability to define design/build does not make sense to me.


What say you?

Topics: Defining Design/Build