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Differences Between Appointing a Consultant and Design-Builder From the Beginning of a Project

Suppose you want to start a construction project. In that case, you may choose between appointing a multi-disciplinary design consultant first with the design-tender-construction process or directly appointing a specialist design-builder–commonly known as merely a contractor in Indonesia–from the beginning. The same option is also available for any building physics project, either it is architectural acoustics, noise control, lighting, or passive design project.

Design-tender-construction–or some call it design-bid-construction–is actually a more common procedure in construction projects where you appoint your consultant or designer to carry out the design process from the early stage. After the design has been completed, you can invite a general or specialist builder 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 design-builder 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 design-builder will execute the work based on the pre-agreed responsibility and price. With that in mind, the design-builder often rolls all the financial risk they will bear into their quote.

Projects with a specialized discipline, such as building physics projects, often require a very specific design or solution to deal with cases, 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.

On the other hand, many other building physics projects can also be solved by only hiring a design-builder. Those are projects that are much simpler or don’t require a very detailed design process.

Here we summarize the advantages of each methodology that will guide your consideration on choosing either a consultant or a design-builder for your project.


The advantages of appointing a consultant

1. Engaging with a consultant at the beginning will diagnose the problem better.

The most significant difference between consultation 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. In some cases, the measuring devices are not even frequently calibrated. All of this can lead to a wrong prognosis.


2. A consultation will provide better design and performance with a controllable budget.

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 predictive analytics software, a consultant can carry out either modeling, simulation, or calculation to present the preview, auralization, and predictive performance to choose 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 a cutting-edge design to your room or building.


3. Involving a consultant from the outset actually saves 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-and-build route, there is a bidding process in the design-tender-construction methodology after the consultant has fully developed the design. Thus, you will have the freedom to choose the best price for the construction phase. 

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.


4. 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.

More benefit adds if you hire a multidiscipline consultant. Consultants with various specialists in their team offer more extensive analysis that will clearly help you attain great and less-risky designs.


5. 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.

6. Consultation is more flexible.

When you opt for a design-and-build contract over a design-tender-construction, 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.

The advantages of appointing a design-builder

1. Design-and-build offers a single point of contact.

If you are dealing with a small project, such as blocking noise coming from your neighbor’s house, and want a much simpler line of communication, you may need to consider hiring a design-builder. With a design-builder taking the overall responsibility of your project, it is easier for you to oversee the project with a single point of contact. In this way, there will be less possibility of miscommunications that prevent you from many headaches during the process.


2. Design-and-build will shorten your project timeline.

By hiring a design-builder, you will no longer need tender in place as they will manage all the purchase and construction. It means you can potentially save a significant amount of time.

In small projects, design-builders are more likely not to carry out extensive design processes that will reduce more of your project time. They will propose the solution right when they hand out the quotation with the details on what materials they will install. In simple words, you will see their solution or design even before you hire them.

Even for a more complex project, some design-builders may only offer you the conceptual designs in their technical proposals to hint at the solutions or designs they will provide. After signing the contract, they then start the design development. This way, the project timeline will still be reduced significantly compared to the traditional design-tender-construction method due to the possibility of carrying out the design development and material purchasing concurrently.


3. You should not be worried about changes in project costs.

Yes, this is the most attractive benefit of hiring design-builders. You can see both technical and commercial proposals before you decide to hire them. Their quotation price will remain unchanged as long as the work they carry out remains in line with the agreed-on technical proposal or design. By taking the design-and-build route, you will have the precise cost of your project before you hire a design-builder.

However, it does not mean this route offers cheaper alternatives than the design-tender-construction method. As mentioned previously, design-builders often include financial risk in their quotes and do not execute value engineering as comprehensively as consultants do. If you have a complex project, it is more unlikely for design-builders to find the most pocket-friendly solution or design for you. But, for less complex projects, design-and-build may be more suitable for you.



Choosing the best method for your building physics project really depends on the type of your project and what you deem as important.

  1. If you have a very complicated project, it is recommended for you to appoint a consultant from the beginning of the project. If you do not have an idea how difficult your project is, you can ask both consultants and design-builders or ask for advice from a building professional.
  2. If you need full control over your budget, it may be best for you to hire a design-builder. Again, it does not always mean you will get the cheaper method.
  3. If you want to focus on the beauty and quality of the design, hiring a consultant may be the answer.
  4. If you do not have time to monitor or to engage in a long process of design and tender, choosing design-and-build may be right for you.

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