Various project delivery methods are available in the construction industry, designed for specific purposes best utilized for certain projects. Each project delivery method provides different ways to organize the scope of services contractually to execute the project successfully.

With over 60 years of industry success, Harbour Contractors manages every construction project from start to finish and provides construction services for public and private sector clients nationwide. In all of our endeavors, our goal is to fully satisfy our clients so that Harbour can establish enduring relationships. As a result, we have clientele who repeatedly select Harbour Contractors time and time again for their construction project needs. This important repeat business has enabled Harbour to experience controlled and profitable growth while offering increasingly diversified services to our client base.

While each project team typically consists of an Owner, designer, and builder, executing each construction project differs based on the chosen delivery method. A fast-track project Owner may contract with one party, either the designer or the Contractor, in a Design-Build agreement. In doing so, the payment process is simplified and allows the Designer and Contractor to work together from the beginning, ultimately expediting the overall project schedule.


Design-Bid-Build (DBB)

Design-Bid-Build is also known as “traditional bidding,” consists of (3) distinct phases, including design, bid, and build. In this traditional form of project delivery, the Architect and the General Contractor work directly for the Owner under separate contracts. The Architect and General Contractor being (2) separate entities allow the Owner to direct the project, increasing the risk of potential communication and payment issues.


  • Benefits: DBB offers plenty of opportunities to provide input about building appearance and function as the designer and architect work directly with the Owner. The General Contractor also works directly for the Owner and is responsible for following the designer’s plans resulting in a transparent process for litigation, if necessary.
  • Drawbacks: Since the Architect and GC do not collaborate during the design phase, the construction process can be delayed or create the need for change orders. The project duration tends to be longer due to the “in-series” nature of DBB. This process does not include the Contractor’s input on design, and therefore creates an additional risk of constructability, long lead times, and cost control. Typically, quality can suffer as the GC is only concerned with meeting the project bid requirements.


Design-Build (DB)

The Design-Builder is the Owner’s single contact for the project’s duration, from start to finish. This streamlined process results in a more efficient building process.

The Design-Build delivery method was created to reduce the lengthy timeline accompanying Design-Bid-Build while bridging the gap between the designer and Contractor as a single party remains responsible for both design and construction roles. Owners find the Design-Build process straightforward as they are only contracted with a singular firm, most typically either the Architect or Contractor from start to finish. The project gains efficiency as the design and build teams work together as (1) operation.

Once the Owner awards the Design-Build contract, the Architect and Contractor work simultaneously to achieve the Owner’s goals, schedule, and budget. Harbour uses a proven Design-Build Gated System, providing Quality Assurance and Quality Control to constantly evaluate the overall health of the project outcome.

Design-Build Method

  • Benefits: Firms must meet the performance requirements specified in the Owner’s contract; therefore, the intensive collaboration of the designer and builder in (1) firm results in fewer change orders and litigation, ultimately saving costs. DB’s project delivery is typically faster as design changes can be vetted and executed faster. Harbour’s team provides pre-construction services, including updates to the overall project, schedule, cost estimates, procurement, long lead items, and the overall project health. The Architect and Contract wear the same jersey and ultimately function as the same team to deliver the Owner’s project goals successfully.
  • Drawbacks: Owners give up control over designs and must let contractors make most of the decisions. Owners also must form a detailed contract specifying performance expectations. If the performance expectations are incorrect, the final construction cost may fluctuate due to the evolving design.


Construction Manager-at-Risk (CMAR)

Construction Manager-at-Risk, also known as CM at Risk or CMAR, involves a Construction Manager (CM) hired by the Owner to oversee the project in its entirety. CMAR is “traditional bidding” with more risk on the CM to Guarantee a Maximum Price (GMP). As the CM will advocate throughout the entire construction process, from pre-construction to project completion, the project lacks transparency and control for the Owner and/or Designer since more risk is deallocated to the project’s CM.

The CM serves as an advocate throughout the entire construction process, from pre-construction to project completion. This project delivery method is ideal for owners who require an expert’s assistance in professionally managing the project and handling all communications between parties. The Construction Manager acts as the Owner’s rep during the design and construction phases. The design and building phases remain separate, and the Construction Manager takes on the risk of meeting project deadlines and cost requirements (typically a Guaranteed Maximum Price).

The CMAR method separates the design and building processes similar to the DBB method. The Construction Manager is involved with the design process, mainly as a const controller, and oversees the construction as a general contractor. The CMAR accepts risk for meeting the project deadline and staying on budget.

Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR)

  • Benefits: Owners work directly with the designers and access the builder’s perspective. When executed correctly, earlier awareness of costs and the project delivery schedule can be established.
  • Drawbacks: The Owner remains liable for the design plans’ completeness, accuracy, and details. Schedule delays and increased costs and litigation may result should there be issues or setbacks from the Owner.


What Construction Project Delivery Method is Right for Your Project?

Selecting which project delivery method best suits your project relies significantly on the type of project, the amount of control over the project the Owner wants, the project schedule, and the budget. As every project is different, the project delivery method must be selected on a case-by-case basis. With careful evaluation of the criteria most important to your project’s success and an in-depth understanding of the delivery methods available, you can make an informed decision suitable for your unique needs. By intentionally selecting the optimal journey for your project, you will experience increased profits and complete construction safely on time.

  • There is no optimal project delivery method, but choosing the correct method for your project helps reduce risk, improve your schedule, and keep your budget on track.
  • Consider these factors before selecting a project delivery method: budget, design, risks, schedule, and Owner expertise.
    • Budget: How much to spend?
    • Design: What will the final product look like? How will it function?
    • Risks: Exposure to danger, financial loss, harm to the brand
    • Schedule: Timetable for completion and payments
    • Owner Expertise: Company’s experience in similar projects


Harbour’s professional team of construction experts is happy to assist in consulting for your next construction project to ensure all goals are met. Our successful track record in pre-construction provides accurate cost estimation, reliable schedules, effective constructability reviews, and value engineering ideas that do not compromise quality or competitive GMP pricing. Harbour also maintains a full-time Estimating Department capable to provide independent estimation services with extensive knowledge of the current industry trends to propose strategies to mitigate financial risks. By closely monitoring and coordinating the construction phase of your project, we are able to deliver our clients significant dividends. From the start of construction through the project’s completion, Harbour’s site project management team will work to ensure that your cost, quality, and schedule objectives are achieved. Let us know how we can help today!

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