Traditional Procurement or Design & Build?
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Traditional Procurement or Design & Build?

Deciding which procurement method to use for your next building project is one of the first and most important things to get right. Because making the wrong decision here can affect how quickly the project moves forward and how happy you are with the end result.

So in this article, we are going to look at the two most popular procurement methods, traditional and design & build. Knowing how these two methods work in terms of drawing up contracts and establishing the liabilities and responsibilities for each party can help you choose the most appropriate method for your project.

Let’s start by taking a look at the two methods individually.

The traditional procurement method

Using the traditional procurement method you will be responsible for employing the quantity surveyor and architect throughout the build. Typically, you will sit down with the architect to work out the design specification and budget. The architect will then create a design based on your proposals and submit them for planning permission.

Once planning permission has been approved the architect will then put the building contract out to tender. Depending on the scope of the contract, most architects will continue to provide support during the tender process. This is important because their experience will help identify contractors which lack the necessary skills to complete the job successfully.

Once the building contract has been signed the architect/quantity surveyor will stay on in a contract administrator role to help manage the build. This will ensure the building is completed in line with the design specifications and reduce the risk of cost overruns and delays.


You have complete control over how the finished building will look.

You can easily implement energy-saving initiatives such as solar panels, ground source heat pumps and wind turbines into the building.

You get a building completely tailored to your needs.


This method is more expensive than a typical design & build contract.

It takes much longer to complete the process from the initial design stage to final delivery.

Cost overruns and delays are more common with this type of project because changes to the specification are often implemented during the build.

The design & build method

With the design & build method, your building contractor takes a more primary role in the project. They will take your initial ideas and budget, then work with the design team to help bring your ideas to life. The contractor will present a final building with complete costings and schedule of works.

If you are happy with the proposals an Employers Requirement contract will be created which outlines your responsibilities and the services to be provided by the contractor. Once this is signed, construction work can get underway.

During the building phase, your contractor will remain the primary driver of the project and will take responsibility for all other professionals onsite including architects, project managers and quantity surveyors on your behalf.


Design & Build is often quicker and more efficient than the traditional method.

The simplified process results in fewer delays and cost overruns.

Developers often have sites with pre-approved planning permission which can reduce delivery time significantly.

It is much less stressful handing the project over to a building contractor.

A relatively low-risk approach that is much easier to manage for employers with little developer experience.


You have little control over how the finished building will look.

Buildings will often be based on existing formulated designs.

Not much scope to integrate additional energy savings measures which go beyond conventional building regulations.

Contractors are more likely to choose cheaper materials to increase profit margins. This may increase maintenance costs over the long-term.

Changes to the specification during the build process can dramatically increase costs.

Different types of design & build contracts

The one-stop-shop approach has become popular over the past decade due to the obvious benefits of having a single point of contact throughout the build process. So much so that several types of design & build contracts have been developed to serve different client needs.

Turnkey contracts

With this type of contract, the building contractor delivers the finished building which is based on a standardised design. This is the simplest and fastest approach because you have a single point of contact throughout the build. While many developers already have pre-approved planning permission for spec builds which can speed up delivery times.

Conventional Design & Build

With this type of contract, you have more control over how the finished building will look. You start by discussing ideas with your contractor who will then create a design based on standardized buildings which meet your needs. Only when the design specification has been finalized will the contractor start work on the building.

Which method is right for you?

As you can see there are some important differences between the two procurement methods. The right choice will depend on several factors such as budget, time constraints and the specifications required.

Generally speaking, you have more control over how the finished building will look using the traditional method. This makes it suitable for statement buildings which contain many unique features such as a full-height atrium, wall climber lifts, roof terrace and state-of-the-art energy-efficient HVAC systems.

For more conventional buildings the design & build method is usually the best approach. You will have to give up some control over the specifications, look and feel of the finished building. But this will be compensated for by reduced build costs, faster delivery times and simplified project management.

How we can help

To obtain new build planning permission London residents need to ensure they choose an architect and structural engineer with the skills and experience needed to obtain approval quickly. At AC Design Solutions we can provide the professional support you need to get your project started.

Our dedicated team of surveyors and architects can help you choose the right procurement method. We can also develop bespoke solutions tailored to your needs, giving you the best of both worlds. A building unique to you but designed and managed by us from concept to completion. For more information about our design and engineering services get in touch by completing the contact form here. Or give our team a call on 020 8158 4000.