Navigating Project Delivery Methods in the Architectural Process

Embarking on an architectural project involves not only envisioning a space but also choosing the right method to bring that vision to life. The construction phase offers various project delivery methods, each with its distinct approach and implications. Let’s explore four primary methods: Design-Build, Design-Bid-Build, Negotiated Contract, and Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR).

1. Design-Build

Approach: In Design-Build, a single entity manages both the design and construction aspects. The client enters a contract with this entity, streamlining communication and accountability.


  • Efficiency: Design-Build often accelerates project timelines by integrating design and construction teams, enabling quicker decision-making.
  • Accountability: With a singular point of responsibility, potential conflicts between the architect and contractor are minimized.
  • Cost Savings: Collaboration between the design and construction teams may lead to cost-effective solutions.


  • Limited Control: Clients may have less direct control over individual project elements.
  • Potential for Change Orders: Early decisions might limit flexibility, leading to change orders if adjustments are necessary later in the process.

2. Design-Bid-Build

Approach: This traditional method involves separate contracts for design and construction. The client first hires an architect through a design contract and later selects a contractor via a bidding process.


  • Clarity in Roles: Distinct roles for architects and contractors can provide a clearer delineation of responsibilities.
  • Competitive Bidding: The bidding process can potentially result in cost savings as contractors compete for the project.


  • Potential for Disputes: If issues arise, the architect and contractor may attribute responsibility to each other, leading to disputes.
  • Extended Timelines: Sequential processes might elongate project timelines compared to integrated methods.

3. Negotiated Contract

Approach: Under this method, the client directly negotiates with both the architect and the contractor. The focus is on fostering collaboration among all parties from the project’s outset.


  • Collaborative Atmosphere: Early involvement of both architect and contractor allows for collaborative problem-solving.
  • Flexibility: Clients have more flexibility in adjusting designs and materials throughout the process.


  • Complex Communication: Coordinating between multiple parties requires effective communication and management.
  • Cost Control Challenges: Open-ended negotiations may pose challenges in managing costs.

4. Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)

Approach: A Construction Manager is engaged during the design phase to provide input on constructability, cost, and scheduling. The CMAR then transitions into a contractor role and assumes the risks associated with construction.


  • Early Input: Early involvement of the CMAR in design ensures constructability and cost considerations are integrated from the beginning.
  • Risk Management: The CM assumes responsibility for managing potential construction risks.


  • Potential for Conflict: Balancing the CM’s input in design decisions while maintaining the architect’s vision can lead to conflicts.
  • Complex Contracts: Contracts in CMAR projects can be intricate due to the overlap of design and construction responsibilities.

Choosing the right project delivery method is pivotal in realizing a client’s vision. Understanding the nuances of each approach empowers clients to make informed decisions, aligning project goals with the most suitable method for their specific needs and preferences.