How Does the Construction Manager Delivery Method Differ from Traditional Design-Bid-Build?

By AIA Contract Documents

March 27, 2024

The Construction Manager (CM) delivery method is a departure from the traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) approach that is commonly utilized on construction projects. While both of these delivery methods aim to bring projects to fruition, they diverge in their processes and collaborative dynamics. Here is a closer look at the fundamental differences between these two delivery methods.

One difference between these delivery methods is the way in which the project is phased. DBB projects are linear. On a DBB project, one task does not start until the prior task is completed. First, the Architect prepares the plans and specifications for the owner. Next, the owner issues bids. Then, the contractor bids the project as designed by the architect. Finally, the owner awards the project to a responsive and usually the lowest bidder who will ultimately construct the project. Conversely, CM projects integrate the construction manager into the project’s lifecycle much earlier DBB. Typically, the construction manager is involved in the project during the design phase. The construction manager is typically selected based on qualifications and experience, and works alongside the design team. This allows for collaboration between the design and construction teams from the outset of the project.

The difference in collaborative dynamics of each delivery method can greatly influence project outcomes. In comparison to CM, DBB projects contain limited collaboration between designers and contractors because these entities involvement on the project occur at different stages. This can lead to conflicts and inefficiencies during construction. CM encourages early collaboration between designers, construction managers, and owners. This collaboration allows for consultation, cost estimates, and proactive problem-solving, ultimately enhancing project efficiency and quality.

In many cases, the allocation of risk is another distinction between these two delivery methods. In many DBB scenarios, the owner bears the majority of the risk. Owners are usually responsible for coordinating various stakeholders. Additionally, owners could bear financial responsibility for costs resulting from discrepancies between design and construction. Conversely, with CM delivery method, the construction manager typically assumes a portion of the risk. In many cases, the construction manager commits to delivering the project within a guaranteed maximum price (GMP). Pursuant to the terms of the contract, if costs surpass the GMP, the CM bears responsibility for the additional expenses, thereby providing a measure of financial security for the owner.

Both CM and DBB methods are effective delivery methods when constructing a building. Depending on the type of project, one method may be more suitable over the other for optimal project delivery. If the owner decides to proceed with DBB, the parties should consider AIA Contract Documents A101®-2017, A102®-2017, A103®-2017, A104®-2017, or A105®-2017. If the owner decides to proceed with CM, the parties should consider AIA Contract Documents A132®–2019, A133®-2019, or A134®-2019. It is important to understand the nuances and differences between these two methods to make an informed decision on how to proceed with your next project.

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.