What is Design-build?

“The time for extracting a lesson from history is ever at hand for those who are wise” – Desmosthenes, Statesman; Athens, Greece (384-322 BC)

History of the Design Build Method


What do the pyramids, the Parthenon and the Pentagon all have in common? They were all built on the same tried and true method: Design and Build. But what is Design-Build and how did it start? To understand this, we’ll need to travel over 5000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt, where man was building the first pyramids. These magnificent structures were built by individuals known as Master Builders.

The Master Builder was responsible for the entire project from design through construction. In fact, Design-Build became a law about 2000 years later in the kingdom of Babylon. In years to come, the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus and other long-lasting structures would be built. Design-Build continued to work very well for man until the Renaissance, when architects decided they wanted their own profession as distinct from the builder.

Architects started designing their own projects and putting them on the market for builders to bid on them. And so the traditional method of building, Design-Bid-Build, was born. This was intended to improve the aesthetic appeal of construction, and did so until the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-1700s. At this time, there was an ever-growing demand for large quantities of warehouses and industrial complexes. As such, collaboration ceased and projects lost their quality. Aesthetic appeal became of little or no consequence.

In the last decade, we have seen a changeover from Design-Bid-Build to Design-Build. The reason for the changeover is simply the involvement required in modern-day projects. Take, for example, the Pentagon, considered the world’s most complex building. This was built using the Design-Build method. Growing interest in energy-efficient homes has greatly contributed to the need of close collaboration between designer and builder.

So it is now as it was in the beginning. The return to the time-honored approach of Design-Build is ever-growing and has surpassed that of Design-Bid-Build. The future of our world’s architecture and construction is inspiring, as we see more Design-Build projects like the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) and state-of-the-art sports arenas erected across the globe.

design-build infographic