Best Project Delivery Method: Which is Right for You?

March 7, 2024
Front-end Planning
Detail Engineering & Design
Fabrication & Construction

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A project delivery system is at the core of a construction project and is often utilized to reduce the risks of delayed schedules and cost overruns while maintaining consistent quality across every stage of the project. Selecting the best project delivery method defines the overall project execution framework as well as the roles and responsibilities of project owners and contractors to ensure a successful outcome of the project.  

The suitability of a project delivery method for a capital project depends on several factors, such as the size, schedule, and cost of the project, along with risk allocation and project design. 

Further, the selection of a project delivery method can be greatly influenced not only by a project owner’s experience, control, and involvement but also by the available infrastructure in terms of construction management or engineering support.

Below, we discuss the two most widely used approaches to project delivery, design-bid-build (DBB) and design-build (DB), and the suitability of these approaches for different projects.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right delivery system is crucial for reducing risks and maintaining quality.
  • Your selection should be based on project size, cost, schedule, risk, and infrastructure.
  • Design-Bid-Build suits smaller, less complex projects, while Design-Build is ideal for larger, complex projects with tight timelines.
  • Your project’s success depends on choosing the right contractor with expertise in your chosen delivery method. 

Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build

While selecting the best project delivery method, it is important to consider that each model has benefits depending upon the situation. Let’s take a look at some of the key aspects of design-bid-build and design-build methods and how they influence a project’s performance. Regardless of the method selected, the project must be fully defined before the execution of engineering. This is typically done in a front-end planning process. 

Design-Bid-Build and Design-Build Comparison

 

Design-Bid-Build (DBB)

Design-Build 

Project Size

Smaller, less complex projects

Larger, complex projects with tight timelines

Owner Control

High; owner oversees separate design and construction

Moderate; owner delegates design and construction to one entity

Risk Allocation

Divided between design and construction phases

Consolidated with a single contractor

Timeline

Longer, due to sequential phases

Shorter, with overlapping phases

Cost Efficiency

Depends on clear scope definition

Higher, due to integrated approach and reduced risks

Ideal Sector

Public and standardized projects

Large-scale, private-sector projects

Contractor’s Role

Separate contracts for design and construction

Single contract covering all aspects of the project

Design-Bid-Build

The design-bid-build method is a conventional and popular approach to project delivery, particularly for small capital projects. This method relies on the project owner to outline the scope before accepting proposals for the IFC (Issued for Construction). An IFC package typically consists of project plans, drawings, and specifications; a well-defined scope is imperative to its accuracy. The traditional method of awarding DBB work is low bid, with the selected contractor, subcontractors, vendors, and material suppliers carrying out the build as per the specified design. 

By nature, this bidding for separate design and construction teams lends itself to a longer  negotiation and contracting process, as one phase must be complete before moving on to the next. Depending on the drivers of the project, this additional time may not be an issue for the project owners and will allow them to control other project factors. The design-bid-build method is well-suited for a capital project that is not necessarily schedule-driven, and the project owner has the expertise, infrastructure, and manpower to oversee the project. The DBB approach can be applied to standard, repetitive, low-complexity, and small-scale projects. 

Which Project Delivery Method is Right for You?

1. Project Complexity and Size

A. My project is relatively small and straightforward.

B. My project is large and complex.

2. Timeline and Schedule

A. I have a flexible timeline

B. I am working on a tight schedule.

3. Owner Involvement and Control:

A. I prefer to have significant control and be involved in each stage.

B. I'm comfortable delegating design and construction responsibilities.

4. Risk Management:

A. I prefer to manage and allocate risks between different phases and teams.

B. I want to consolidate risks with a single entity.

5. Sector and Nature of the Project:

A. My project is a public-sector or standardized project.

B. My project is a large-scale, private-sector project.

Results:

  • Mostly A's: Design-Bid-Build (DBB) might best fit you. It suits smaller, less complex projects where the owner desires high control.
  • Mostly B's: Design-Build (DB) is likely more suitable for your needs, especially for complex projects with tight timelines and where you prefer consolidated responsibility.

Design-Build

In the design-build, or EPC (engineering, procurement, construction), approach, the project owner delegates all responsibilities of design and construction and the associated risks to a single EPC contractor. As a single entity is involved in carrying out the project responsibilities in the DB method, selecting a contractor with the required expertise and in-house designing and construction capabilities is critical to the project's success. The design-build contract sets the agreement terms between the project owner and the contractor, including the budget, timeline, and project deliverables.          

The DB method allows a project owner to work with the selected contractor to clearly define the scope early in the project cycle. A clear, detailed, and complete definition of a project scope offers price certainty while significantly reducing risks such as schedule delays and cost overruns. Because the DB method works with one contractor across the entire project, the procurement, design, and construction stages can often be overlapped, thus ensuring faster project delivery and potential cost savings. 

As a result, the DB method is ideal for accomplishing complex projects with tight timelines. The flexibility of contractor selection and the bidding process in the private sector contributes to the greater effectiveness of the DB approach for large-scale, private-sector capital projects. According to the Construction Industry Institute, the project performance score for the DB method is higher than the DBB method due to a decreased cost and schedule growth.           

No two capital projects are the same, and the best project delivery method depends upon a project's specific timeline and budget. For a project owner, selecting the right contractor with expertise in different project delivery systems is essential.  

Implementing the Best Project Delivery Method Through the Right Contractor

H+M Industrial EPC has decades of experience working in the energy, chemical, and terminal and logistics industries, ensuring successful project outcomes through the best project delivery systems for clients in Houston, South Texas, and Corpus Christi, TX, USA. Our in-house engineering and construction capabilities and our integrated EPC approach help keep project life cycles intact while minimizing the risks of cost and schedule overruns.

We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction through our proven strategic EPC approach. Our comprehensive services, including detail engineering and design, procurement, fabrication, and construction allow us to take your project from conception to completion, tailoring engineering and design solutions to meet your unique needs.

About the Author

Want to Learn More About Project Management?

To learn more about how H+M Industrial EPC can help you pick the best project delivery method, contact us today. 

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

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The H+M Industrial Team

For over three decades, we have provided best-in-class capital project management services to Energy and Chemical industries through our proven EPC approach. We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction--on budget and on time.

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