I’m just wrapping up preconstruction services on a current Grit Design-Build project. As I began prepping the package for submission to the client, I thought as I usually do, ‘I know they will be pleased with this package.’ But then I thought, does anyone realize what it takes to design-build? What does the everyday Joe think that LOOKS like?

When I started the firm, I knew design-build was the way to go. I was frustrated at the inefficiency of design-bid-build, exhausted at the bottom-dollar competition of hard bid, and very concerned about the trajectory of my industry in general. Put simply, designers are drifting away from efficiency-in-design (mostly over-promising design and budget to the client and CYA) and hard bid contractors have to focus so hard on finding profits on over budget designs that quality often suffers.

Here, we do it differently. Whatever the client’s priority is, budget, schedule or quality, our team and leadership provides maximum benefit across the board. But again, what does that really look like? It’s no small feat. And for a small and growing business like Grit, it can be a monumental challenge. So, once you have hired a design-builder, here are some indicators to look for to be sure your project is headed for success and you’re receiving the value you should.

  1. Design Development: Your team shouldn’t have a problem turning over consistent revisions and ideas to you as the client. From early concepts, to scheduled milestone sets of designs, to completed construction documents.


  1. Schedules: The design-builder, unlike the everyday contractor, has to know how to operate a project schedule from the infancy of a project through completion. This means the schedule should show early development if applicable (like zoning, platting, etc.), design processes and milestones, and construction as well. These all impact when, where, how and how much the project will require. For companies that can self-perform, like Grit, that adds another layer of complexity. If you don’t see resources begin to populate your schedule as you near the activity, you could be looking at problems. Bottom-line, this is a complex matter of business, so look for companies, teams, and individuals that prove their ability to handle complex situations, and provide efficient solutions.


  1. Budgeting: Early on, a budget should be round, maybe calculated by square foot, acre, or other units like kilowatt or tons in energy and steel projects. As the project continues, your design-builder should be able to morph these budgetary costs into more formal historical data, subcontractor vetted costs, and even hard bids. The better the design is, the more proper your budget will be. Never, ever forget contingency. I can write a whole article on how-to with contingencies, so we’ll cover that another day. Just don’t forget that your team should give you periodical budget updates, and if their a great design-builder (and budget was your priority), they WILL hit it.




  1. Finally, competence, design-builders must have a confident understanding of you, your needs, and the type of design and construction undertaken. If you ask your builder pointed questions and you love it when your ‘yes man’ design-builder answers confidently, ‘YEP!’ I hate to say it, but you’re in trouble. Look for detailed answers, confidence, and follow ups when there should be one. Also, if your design lead isn’t onsite checking the work, then you’re likely not getting the work that was designed, expect involvement!

If you’re looking to complete a project, and you don’t know where to turn, don’t hesitate to call Grit. We’re here to help, even if we don’t get the work!

Authored by Dakota Durden | Owner | Grit

The Grit family of companies handles:

Design | Build | Fabricate


Commercial | Residential | Millworks | Industrial | Aviation | Healthcare | Retail | Civil Works | Energy

And so much more…