The traditional construction or renovation process involves working with several parties to design and build a house. A customer will usually consult with an architect to produce the designs, and then they'll hire a general contractor who hires subcontractors to handle much of the work.
Working with design builders represents a different approach to the age-old problem of the best way to construct a house. If you're considering this approach, you should expect to deal with the following three things.
The entire point of the design-build process is streamlining. Rather than meeting with an architect and then lining up a general contractor, the whole project happens under a single agreement. The design builders draw up the plans and implement them.
Everyone will work closely on the project. If someone framing the house has questions about the structure, for example, they usually can go down the hall for answers rather than waiting for an architect to return their call. Especially if you need to get a house built quickly, such as doing construction in late-summer in a cold region, this can make a notable difference.
Fixed Fees and One-Stop Shopping
General contractors normally bid on projects, and then the customer chooses from the bids. Design builders will meet with their customers to determine the requirements of a project. Once the two sides have ironed out the particulars, they will sign an agreement that fixes the price. You can expect the price from the agreement to cover all the costs, avoiding the unexpected overruns that may occur with a GC.
Notably, this makes the customer more involved in the planning and budgeting process. You will need to understand the costs of the proposed project to make sense of whether the proposed fees for a job are to your liking. If you're unsure about the price, you may want to have a real estate appraiser offer an opinion for comparison. You may also want to have your bank's loan officer look at the proposed fees and the value of the planned house.
Little to No Subcontracting
Typically, design-build firms have most or all of the talent needed to complete their customers' projects. Rather than assembling a team of subcontractors, they will have employees who handle at least the basic work like pouring concrete, framing, and roofing.
Some design builders will bring in a few subcontractors for specialized work. For example, a job might involve electrical work that exceeds the company's abilities. However, these costs will stay within the agreed-upon budget so the company has incentives to avoid overruns.