The Benefits of Consultation over Design & Build

 In Articles, Publications

If you want to start a construction project, you may choose between the design-bid-build and design-and-build process. The same option is also available for any building physics project, either it is architectural acoustics, noise control, lighting, or passive design project.

Design-bid-build is actually a more common procedure in construction projects where you appoint your consultant or designer to carry on the design process in the early stage. After the plan has been completed, you can invite a general contractor to prepare bids for the construction. Therefore, the quote for the design is different from that for the construction.

Meanwhile, design-and-build is a construction project methodology where you can appoint a general contractor to conduct both the design and construction of your project. In other words, it is a one-stop-shop model of construction projects. Here, generally, the contractor will execute the work based on pre-agreed responsibility and price. With that in mind, the contractor often rolls all the financial risk they will bear into their quote.

As a specialized discipline, a building physics project often requires a very specific design or solution to deal with the case that we encounter, especially those that are very complex and difficult to solve. When you need to build a concert venue with excellent acoustics, for example, you definitely need a consultant to formulate the design. Relying on a design-builder to devise this very complex venue will obviously not be a good option. Here, complexity does not always mean relatively large in size. A 16-sqm music studio, for instance, demands a comprehensive design to achieve high sound quality.

Here we summarize the advantages of design-bid-build (a.k.a. appointing consultants) over design-build.


Consultants diagnose the problem better.

The most significant difference between consultancy and design-and-build lies in the fact that design will offer more thorough measurement and analysis to identify the problem. Based on the established methodology and more robust measuring instruments, the consultant can develop a better diagnosis to help them with a more accurate solution.

For someone looking for a design and build service, the problem was often diagnosed based on simple observation and measurement. More often, the measuring devices are not calibrated. All of this can lead to a wrong prognosis.


Consultants provide a more accurate solution/better design.

The fact that a design-builder should come up with the project budget on the fee proposal–even in a tight deadline–makes them unwilling to undertake an in-depth analysis before developing their proposed design. The reluctance adds due to the uncertainty of whether the design-builder will be appointed after they propose the design.

Meanwhile, with reliable specialized analytics software, a consultant can carry out either simulation or calculation to present the best design within the budget that you are comfortable with. Computer simulations can help the consultant gain better insight into predicting the proposed design’s implementation in the real world.

Also, having years of training and very specialized skills, consultants will have the knowledge of the latest standards and requirements, even of the ones not written but will bring cutting-edge design to your room or building.


Consultations actually save money.

Better and more accurate designs mean less risky solutions. Poorly-planned designs can result in unsatisfying outcomes. These oftentimes turn costlier than if you rely on the consultation before the construction begins. Poor results will require further adjustment or, even worse, total renovation.

Even when you are on a tight budget, the consultant can also advise you where to save money without sacrificing much of the design they desire.

Moreover, most design-builders will be hesitant to start any detailed design before they have been officially hired. Thus, you will find it hard to examine the prices as different design-builders will develop different designs. Unlike the design-build route, there is a bidding process in the design-bid-build methodology after the consultant has fully developed the design. Thus, you will have the freedom to choose the best price for the construction stage.

The price offered by design-builders may escalate when there is a very complex problem as they will charge more to cover the high level of risk they should handle.

The consultation fee is just a tiny portion of the project cost. Considering how much risk you can reduce with the consultation, the fee you pay for a consultant is worth enough.


Not only the technical part, but consultants also consider other parameters.

Consultants will also take into account other parameters, such as ergonomics, environmental impacts, and aesthetics that are usually not considered by design-builders. 

We all agree that a powerful design takes time, as it should be specific to the room, building, or area you want to be treated. Therefore, it is very unlikely that design-builders can come up with such an extensive analysis in their proposal before they get hired.

The plus points you will get when you rely upon extensive design consultation are enormous. For instance, if you hire a lighting designer, you definitely invest in a design that contributes to its function and the increase in productivity you will enjoy. 


Consultants are independent of any brands.

Usually, design-builders have some contract partnerships with manufacturers. Therefore, they will tend to specify certain products, which in some cases can compromise performance.

In contrast, as consultants should professionally remain independent of any business interest, they are obliged to provide designs that perform best with the lowest possible investment. Accordingly, they can freely choose any products that fit the recommended specifications and your desire.

With a consultant being involved in a project, they also work as an independent reviewer dan advisor to help you supervise the construction work. It will avoid any changes in specifications or defects that will compromise the performance.

With the design-and-build process, it is hard for you to supervise the project as you may not have the same expertise and experience as consultants do to oversee the project being undertaken by the design-builder.


Consultation is more flexible.

When you opt for a design-and-build contract over a design-bid-build, it may hard to change the design or budget as you have agreed to the proposed design in the design-builder’s quote. Any change can be much costlier than if you appoint a consultant. As we know, changing minds is much easier and cheaper than as it is with design-and-build.



For some, the design-and-build route looks so tempting as it provides cost certainty–not only estimation-before they get hired. You may also feel easier to communicate and to control with the single-source accountability they offer. 

However, even though these plus points are attractive to you, you need to consider the risk you will have with this route more carefully. 

It is very dangerous to make a generalization that design-and-build will win over design-bid-build. Given all the advantages of design-bid-build above, it unquestionably gives you more benefits in the long run.


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