Getting to Know Four Major Delivery Methods

Arguably, one of the most important parts of planning a construction project is choosing the right project delivery method for your project goals. Selecting a delivery method not only informs how the project will be done, but what qualifications are necessary for designers and contractors, the length of the project lifecycle, and the amount of risk assumed by the owner.

Here are four common project delivery methods and what each one looks like:


The most traditional method is the Design-Bid-Build (DBB), which describes the process right in its name. This method is characterized by separating the design, bidding, and construction phases rather than overlapping them like in other delivery methods. The owner utilizes one firm for design, and the project is then competitively bid to construction firms in order to price the work. While the DBB method is time consuming, competitive bidding helps the owner and designer select the best possible price for the project. Another defining feature of the DBB method is that the designer oversees the project throughout the construction process.


The Design-Build method is a much newer method, and was developed partly to compress the lengthy timeline associated with Design-Bid-Build. In this method, the owner utilizes a single entity, often called a Design-Builder, to oversee the entire project including design and construction. The process of selecting a Design-Builder is similar to a bidding process, but firms put together proposals that include pricing as well as build details and other useful information about the firm’s experience. After a Design-Builder is selected by the owner and the design phase is underway, the firm presents the client with a Guaranteed Maximum Price prior to the start of construction. While this method simplifies the process for the owner, it is important to select a trustworthy firm with Design-Build qualifications.

Construction Management Agency

In this method, the client hires a construction manager to oversee the project and act on their behalf to manage relationships with the subcontractors and design team. The construction manager is often utilized for the entire project, but can also be utilized for only specific segments. Unlike in the DBB method, the contractor is involved early enough in the process that they are able to work with the design team, allowing for a compressed timeline and less hidden costs. However, this method requires the owner to manage multiple relationships.

Construction Manager at Risk

The Construction Manager At-Risk method, or CMAR, also utilizes a construction manager to oversee the project on the client’s behalf. However, the CMAR is typically involved prior to the selection of the designer and acts as a consultant to the client throughout the project’s life cycle as well as a general contractor. The construction manager is contractually obligated to keep the project within the client’s budget, manages subcontractor relationships, and works collaboratively with the client and design team. The CMAR method is often compared to a Design-Build, as most of the project’s responsibilities fall on one entity and the construction manager presents the owner with a Guaranteed Maximum Price. However, unlike in a Design-Build, the owner and contractor often utilize a separate design team and collaborate on bidding to subcontractors. This method also transfers some financial risk from the owner to the contractor. If the project price exceeds the GMP, the contractor is then responsible for the extra cost.

While each of these delivery methods has its various benefits, it is important to consider the financial, operational, and time-based needs of each individual project in order to find the best fit. For more information on these methods, visit

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