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Should You Hire An Architect or Design-Build Firm?

Challenges of working with a design-build firm and why a traditional architect might be right for you.

Kyle Chandler

Client Relations

We frequently are asked the question: “should we hire a traditional architect and independent contractor, or a design-build firm to handle everything?” When beginning a build process, hiring an architect has been the traditional approach. However, design-build firms have been surging in popularity; and for a good reason.

As a design-build firm, it’s hard for us to be impartial for the sake of this post. However, we’ve swallowed our bias enough to acknowledge that there are pros and cons to both methodologies and specific circumstances where going with one may make more sense than going with the other.

What are design-build firms?

Simply put, choosing a design-build firm for your project means hiring a team of designers and contractors under a single contract rather than working with independent contractors and architects. Design-build firms typically handle everything from conceptual design, pricing, and construction. Choosing a design-build firm can alleviate many potential headaches for those who value convenience, transparent budgets, and more seamless project delivery. In addition, specific design-build firms have specialties that can mean the difference between meeting and exceeding your goals.

What happens when you go with a traditional architect?

Going the more traditional route means interviewing your architects and general contractors separately. Essentially, you enlist contracts with each party to work together to deliver your project. Ideally, your selection of the first party can help with the selection of the latter, but that’s not always the case. Choosing to hire each team member individually means that you can tailor their collective skills to your specific project.

Reasons to go with a design-build firm.


Since all the team members of your design and build firm are in-house, there is no lack of accountability. When designers and contractors are on the same team, there is no confusion finding the fault source if something goes wrong. This accountability means that project timelines or budgetary conflicts are resolved swiftly.


High-demand areas, such as around the Portland area, can expect very long wait periods to work with experienced contractors. Working with an architect requires waiting for designs to be drawn and approved before bidding with contractors. This delayed process often extends project start dates by months, if not years! DESIGN+BUILD employs both designers and project managers to ensure that your project gets started promptly.


We touched on this earlier but didn’t give it the hype that this aspect of design-build firms deserves. Often, particular design-build firms specialize in a specific client segment or process. In the case of DESIGN+BUILD, our firm specializes in workplace strategy and design for commercial clients. Where an architect and general contractor combination can assist on most projects, our firm regularly exceeds expectations and produces superior results for our target market.


Similar to accountability, having your entire design-build team in one organization streamlines communication. Optimized communication means that there are no budgetary or timeliness surprises. Design-build teams work closely with clients to ensure that all expectations are exceeded across all aspects of project delivery.


When a design-build firm is responsible for the quality of a project, all resources are employed to ensure the project is delivered cost-effectively. Therefore, the design and build firm is bound to provide the best value, quality, and plan for your project.

Challenges of working with a design-build firm and why a traditional architect might be right for you.

Picking the right firm

While it is undoubtedly easier to find one firm to handle your project than individual people, choosing the right design and build firm can be tricky. You may find that you’ve fallen in love with the design team at one firm yet butt heads with the construction team, or visa-versa.

Assembling the right team

When you choose the traditional method of hiring an architect and contractor, you’re able to pick and choose who (exactly) you want on your team. This route gives you almost complete control over who handles what aspect of the build process. Selecting a design-build firm removes some of that control. Instead of sourcing specific people for specific tasks, hiring a design-build firm means hiring a pre-established team.

The breakdown

The chances are that either method will (eventually) complete your project to at least a satisfactory degree, whether you opt for a design-build firm or an architect and contractor. However, choosing the right option for your specific needs can create a much happier and more beneficial experience for all parties involved.

For any questions, or if you need help deciding between a design-build firm or an architect, please contact us here!

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