Construction Delivery Methods: A Comparative Analysis

In this guide, we’ll compare six common construction delivery methods to help you successfully execute your next project.
construction delivery methods
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology

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Common Construction Delivery Methods

Choosing the correct construction delivery method for your project is not only crucial for successful execution, but it’s also a decision that can profoundly impact your project’s timeline, budget, and overall outcome. The selection process can often seem daunting, especially when presented with an array of options, each with unique advantages and potential drawbacks.

This comparative analysis explores each method’s characteristics, highlighting its strengths, weaknesses, and optimal use cases. We’ll discuss the traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) and Design-Build (DB) methods, the increasingly popular Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) method, the Construction Management Multi-Prime (CMMP), the collaborative Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP or P3).

Our goal is not to push you towards one construction project delivery method over another. Instead, we aim to equip you with the knowledge and insights needed to navigate this complex selection process confidently. Understanding how each construction delivery method operates can better position you to align your choice with your project’s unique needs, constraints, and objectives.

Whether you’re a project owner searching for the most suitable method for your upcoming venture, a project team member aiming to expand your understanding of the field, or a student aspiring to grasp the ins and outs of the construction industry, this article acts as your comprehensive guide.

Here we’ll explore the six most common construction delivery methods, each defined by unique processes, roles, and relationships.

Design-Bid-Build (DBB)

In the Design-Bid-Build method, the owner contracts separately with the designer (typically an architect or engineer) and the contractor. First, the designer is hired to deliver complete design documents. Then, these documents are put out for bid to contractors. 

The contractor who presents the lowest bid is typically chosen to complete the construction. This method is considered traditional and is the most widely used due to its clear linear path and distinct roles for all parties.

Involved Parties and Responsibilities

  • Owner: Initiates and defines the project, hires the design team, and selects a contractor based on submitted bids.
  • Design Team (Architect/Engineer): Develops detailed project designs, blueprints, and specifications.
  • Contractor: Submits a bid to build the project and carries out the construction work as per the designs and specifications upon selection.


  • Clear separation of design and construction phases reduces confusion and overlap.
  • Competitive bidding often lowers costs as contractors strive to provide the most value.
  • Changes in designs can be adjusted before the construction phase begins.
  • Time-tested and widely accepted, making it a safe choice for many projects.


  • The potential for conflicts between the designer and builder could lead to delays or cost overruns.
  • The project timeline could be longer due to the sequential nature of the process.

Design-Build (DB)

The Design-Build method, also known as the “one-stop-shop” approach, consolidates the design and construction phases under a single contract. This arrangement streamlines the project delivery by promoting integration between the design and construction teams from the start. 

The owner only needs to manage one contract, reducing the administrative burden and potential for disputes. Additionally, the Design-Build method allows for accelerated construction as the construction can start even before the designs are fully completed, given the integrated nature of the team.

Involved Parties and Responsibilities

  • Owner: Initiates the project and contracts a single entity for design and construction.
  • Design-Builder: Takes on the dual responsibility of designing the project and executing the construction work.


  • The project timeline is often reduced as design and construction phases overlap.
  • Single point of responsibility diminishes the potential for disputes.
  • Improved coordination between the design and construction process due to integrated teams.
  • Greater cost certainty as the design-builder can accurately estimate construction costs.


  • The owner has less control over design details.
  • Less competitive pressure might increase costs.

Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)

With the CMAR method, the owner contracts separately with a designer for the design phase and a construction manager who acts as a consultant during the design phase. However, unlike traditional Construction Management, the CMAR provides a guaranteed maximum price and construction services, assuming the risk of potential cost overruns. 

This arrangement can provide owners with greater cost certainty and more active involvement of the construction manager during the design phase, fostering collaboration and mitigating risks.

Involved Parties and Responsibilities

  • Owner: Initiates the project, contracts the design team and a construction manager.
  • Design Team: Develops the project design and specifications.
  • Construction Manager: Works alongside the design team, provides pre-construction services, manages construction, and bears the risk of cost overruns.


  • Early involvement of a construction manager brings valuable construction expertise into the design phase.
  • Cost certainty due to the guaranteed maximum price mitigates financial risks for the owner.
  • The project timeline may be shortened as some construction activities can begin before the design phase is complete.


  • The selection process for a CMAR can be time-consuming and complicated.
  • Potential for higher initial costs due to the involvement of a construction manager.

Construction Management Multi-Prime (CMMP)

The CMMP method involves the owner contracting directly with multiple contractors for different work components. A construction manager is also hired to coordinate the different contractors. 

This method gives the owner more control over the project, as they maintain direct relationships with each prime contractor. However, it also requires more management and coordination, which an effective construction manager can mitigate.

Involved Parties and Responsibilities

  • Owner: Initiates the project, hires the design team, selects multiple prime contractors, and contracts a construction manager.
  • Design Team: Creates project designs and specifications.
  • Prime Contractors: Each executes a specific portion of the project.
  • Construction Manager: Oversees coordination among prime contractors and ensures construction aligns with designs.


  • The owner maintains significant control over the construction process.
  • Specialty contractors provide their expertise in specific project areas, enhancing the quality of work.
  • The potential for a faster timeline with different parts of the project happening simultaneously.


  • The coordination of multiple prime contractors can be complex and challenging.
  • Potential for disputes among contractors due to overlapping responsibilities.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)

The IPD method is designed to integrate people, systems, business structures, and practices into a collaborative process that harnesses the talents and insights of all participants. 

This method aims to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency through all stages of design, fabrication, and construction. IPD is a high-collaboration, shared-risk, and shared-reward model.

Involved Parties and Responsibilities

  • Owner: Initiates the project and forms an agreement with the architect/engineer and contractor.
  • Architect/Engineer and Contractor: Work collaboratively with the owner and each other from design to construction.


  • High level of collaboration encourages innovative solutions and efficient project execution.
  • Shared risk and reward can encourage all parties to stay on track and within budget.
  • Greater transparency throughout the project.


  • Requires a high level of trust and collaboration among parties, which may not suit all projects.
  • Potential for disputes over shared liabilities.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP or P3)

The PPP or P3 method involves a contract between a public sector authority and a private party. The private party provides a public service or project and assumes substantial financial, technical, and operational risk in the project. 

In some types of PPP, the cost of using the service is borne exclusively by the users of the service and not by the taxpayer. This method typically benefits large infrastructure projects requiring substantial funding and expertise.

Involved Parties and Responsibilities

  • Government Agency: Defines the project, selects a private partner, and may oversee the operation.
  • Private Company: Funds the project, collaborates on design and construction, and potentially operates the completed project.


  • Can facilitate large-scale projects with limited public funding.
  • Risk sharing between public and private entities can create opportunities for innovation and efficiency.
  • Offers potential long-term returns for private investors.


  • Complex contracts can be challenging to manage.
  • Potential for public controversy over private involvement in public projects.

Factors To Consider When Choosing a Construction Delivery Method

Selecting the right construction delivery method initially can greatly affect the overall success of a project. Several factors need to be considered to make an informed decision, with each aspect playing a key role in aligning the method to the project’s needs, constraints, and goals.

1. Project Type & Complexity

The nature and intricacies of your project can significantly steer which delivery method is best suited. Simple projects with clear objectives and known factors might find the traditional Design-Bid-Build method the most straightforward and suitable.

However, construction delivery methods such as CMAR or IPD might be more appropriate for complex, large-scale projects or those involving specialized structures or technologies. These construction delivery methods emphasize early collaboration and involvement of key participants, which can be advantageous when dealing with project complexities.

2. Budget

Your available budget plays a dual role: it dictates the scale and quality of your construction and determines which delivery methods are financially feasible. Methods such as Design-Build can potentially offer cost savings due to their streamlined, integrated nature, which often leads to better cost estimation and control.

However, other methods, like Construction Management Multi-Prime (CMMP) or Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), might involve additional costs related to contract management, coordination, or partnership formation.

3. Timeline

Every project operates within a timeline, and the urgency of project completion can greatly affect the choice of delivery method. If the project is time-sensitive, methods that allow for concurrent design and construction phases, like Design-Build or Integrated Project Delivery, can expedite project completion. 

Traditional methods like Design-Bid-Build, where sequential steps might result in a longer project timeline, also provide distinct checkpoints for approval and adjustments.

4. Owner’s Involvement & Expertise

The owner’s capacity and willingness for involvement, along with their expertise in construction processes, also play a crucial role. If you prefer a hands-on approach and deeply understand construction processes, methods like Construction Management Multi-Prime could be fitting.

Conversely, if you wish to limit your involvement or lack detailed construction knowledge, you might favor the Design-Build method, where a single entity assumes responsibility for both design and construction, providing you with a single point of contact.

5. Risk Allocation

Risk allocation is another key consideration. Different delivery methods distribute risk differently among the project owner, designer, and constructor. For example, in the Construction Manager at Risk method, the construction manager assumes significant risk for exceeding the estimated costs. Understanding your risk tolerance and ability to manage it is pivotal when choosing a construction delivery method.

6. Regulatory or Legal Considerations

Finally, the regulatory environment and potential legal constraints cannot be overlooked. Some delivery methods, like Public-Private Partnerships, are subject to specific legal requirements and constraints. Additionally, local regulations, building codes, and zoning rules can also influence the choice of delivery method.

How To Ensure Successful Project Delivery With Workyard

Successful project delivery in construction is a multifaceted process that requires meticulous planning, efficient communication, and effective cost management. Here’s how you can leverage Workyard’s construction management software to facilitate these crucial aspects and ensure successful project delivery.

1. Establish Effective Communication Channels

Transparent, timely, and effective communication are all critical to project success. Workyard’s integrated platform enables crews to communicate with stakeholders effortlessly via notes, checklists, and photos. 

This feature seamlessly connects the office to the field, ensuring everyone stays informed of project updates, changes, and potential issues. Workyard helps streamline communication and avoid costly delays or errors by fostering a collaborative environment.

2. Monitor Progress and Quality

Ensuring quality and tracking progress are vital for meeting project timelines and maintaining standards. Workyard enables owners to schedule and assign inspections in just a few clicks, facilitating real-time oversight of work quality.

Regular inspections help maintain quality, prevent rework, and ensure compliance with industry standards. Additionally, Workyard’s progress tracking feature allows you to measure actual progress against the planned schedule, keeping the project on track.

3. Manage Project Costs

Efficient cost management is essential to stay within budget and ensure the project’s overall financial success. Workyard’s construction job costing software lets you monitor and control costs in real-time. By providing a clear view of your actual expenses compared to your budget, Workyard enables you to promptly identify and address any cost overruns or discrepancies, preventing financial surprises.

Workyard can ultimately be a powerful tool for your project management needs, providing comprehensive solutions for defining project scope, enhancing communication, tracking progress and quality, and managing costs. Leverage the power of Workyard to optimize your construction project delivery and make informed decisions every step of the way.

Don’t just take our word for it; see it in action! Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today and take the first step towards more efficient and successful project management.

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