Design-Build-Furnish vs a Design-Bid Approach Blog Feature
Marcos Rodriguez

By: Marcos Rodriguez on July 13, 2021

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Design-Build-Furnish vs a Design-Bid Approach

Church Design | Church Construction

This post is part two in a three-part series where we explore the advantages of our unique, integrated Design-Build-Furnish approach.

Every building project comes together by navigating the tension between priorities and constraints—costs and budget, schedule and programming, and vision and scope. A crucial part of choosing a building partner for a project is selecting a delivery method—the process for navigating those tensions as you take a project from concept to a completed building.

But how can you know which delivery method your church should choose? In the following post, we’ll review the differences between a “Design-Bid” and a Design-Build-Furnish” approach.




“Design-bid” or “design-bid-build” is a process in which the client hires an architect to create a completed set of building plans. When the plans are done, the client submits the drawings to general contractors, inviting them to bid on the plans, submitting an estimate of how much they think it will cost for them to build the plans. In this method, the client manages the process and all the subcontractors.




“Design-build” or “design-build-furnish” is a process in which the client hires the architect and construction manager at the same time—ideally, in the same firm. This is also known as “integrated project delivery” because all of the disciplines are integrated into the same contract or process. In this method, the firm manages the process, and holds all the risk for the project under one roof.


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Design-Build-Furnish Approach:


The advantages of Design-Build-Furnish over Design-Bid-Build emerge from what each process prioritizes as they navigate the tension within the project:

Priority: To create a design and obtain the lowest bids on that design from subcontractors.
How it Plays Out: The advantage of this approach is that it relieves the tension of the process by keeping designer and builder separate and aiming to build with whichever company submits the lowest projected costs.
Disadvantages: Perception of the lowest cost doesn’t always play out. When the designer and builder aren’t collaborating closely from the beginning of a project, there can be problems with the drawings that lead to inaccurate estimates and result in change orders later on. The “lowest bid” isn’t always the lowest cost. This means after you’ve committed and broken ground, costs can balloon to as much as 150%-200% of what the bids projected.

Design-Bid tends to pit the architect against the contractor when problems and errors arise, each company blaming the other in order to avoid paying for the costs that emerge. This leaves the owner in a risky (and often expensive) position.


Priority: To create a design and find the most effective building solution.
How it Plays Out: With design and construction working together with shared priorities, their different expertise generates a creative tension—construction pulling towards more efficient and accurate drawings to manage costs, and designers pulling towards a creative space that prioritizes ministry impact.
Advantages: The close relationship of the design and construction staff and the shared goal of finding the most effective building solution safeguards the owner’s risk, holding the tension of scope, schedule, and budget to ensure that the owner can complete the project they create on time and on budget. Problems and errors show up early, and with both the contractor and architect on the same team, they have the same motivation to resolve discrepancies efficiently. They join forces to guard the owner’s risk.

The Design-Build process is also a faster way to complete the average project. Instead of waiting for a completed package of detailed drawings before going into a bidding process, Design-Build allows construction to start even while designers are finishing the details. Design and construction staff can release the project in packages within a creative timeline.

Want to learn more about why our Design-Build-Furnish process might be the perfect fit for your church building project? Reach out to us for a no-pressure conversation.


About Marcos Rodriguez

Marcos Rodriguez serves as Director of Design Operations and has been at Aspen since 2014. Outside of the office, Marcos enjoys spending time with his wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters.