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May 17

Understanding Project Delivery Methods On The ARE

It’s certainly important to have a solid understanding of the various project delivery methods because many questions can show up on the ARE. The Construction Documents and Services exam covers a variety of topics relating to project management and administration so issues relating to project delivery are more than likely going to show up on the CDS exam. There may be some overlap in concepts with the Programming, Planning, and Practice exam but there’s a pretty good chance questions will show up on the construction documents exam.

The term project delivery is a very broad term in architecture and relates to the process of establishing contractual relationships in order to complete a building for the owner. What this basically means is, there are different ways to run a project depending on the different conditions that may be present. Some project may need to run faster than others while other projects may be smaller and don’t involve as many team members. Either way, the project delivery method that you choose for a project will depend on a number of factors specific for that project.

There are 3 main types of project delivery that are common in the architecture industry that you should be familiar with for the ARE. You may be asked to apply your knowledge of project delivery methods by choosing an applicable type for a given situation. In order to help you understand these types better, let’s take a look at the 3 main methods.

  • Design-Bid-Build

The Design-Bid-Build method is the most common type of project delivery because it is the most straightforward type and most people are familiar with it. This method is a linear process meaning that in order to move on to the next phase, the previous phase must be completed. In this traditional format, the architect prepares the contract documents in full before they are bid to contractors. After a few weeks of bidding and negotiation, the project can begin construction after the award has been granted.

Since this method is so familiar to both owners, architects, and contractors, it is used quite frequently for a variety of project sizes. Typically, the size of the project won’t affect the success of the Design-Bid-Build method because the linear process helps to organize responsibilities amongst project members.

  • Design-Build

A variation of the standard project delivery method is the Design-Build method; which allows the owner to contract with only one other party instead of multiple parties. Typically in this method, the owner will only have a contractual relationship with the contractor which limits the amount of project members involved in the process.

What people seem to like about the Design-Build method is the fact that there is now one single source of responsibility on the project. In the typical Design-Bid-Build method, the owner will usually have a contractual relationship with both the architect and the contractor, both separate contracts. This sometimes leads to accountability issues between the architect and contractor. By limiting the relationships to only one, the owner can now hold that party responsible without worrying about them pointing fingers at other parties.

There are a few disadvantages to the Design-Build method that you should be familiar with as well for the ARE. Since the contract between the owner and contractor is signed before the design is complete, many complications and disagreements can occur during the design process that usually doesn’t happen with the Design-Bid-Build process. If an architect is involved in a Design-Build project, it is usually as an advisor to the owner where the architect can assist in the contract administration part of a project. In essence, the role of the architect is certainly reduced in the Design-Build type of project delivery.

  • Fast-Track

The Fast-Track project delivery type is obviously used in situations where time is of the essence. In this method, a construction manager is usually hired by the owner before the architect is complete with the construction documents. This can be a benefit to the project team because construction advice can be given as details are still being worked out as well as preliminary budgets. By overlapping various phases of a project, the owner can reduce the overall time of the project if that is indeed a major issue.

Although the Fast-Track method of hiring a contractor before the documents are complete will usually save a significant amount of time, it can be very confusing with multiple prime contracts between the owner and various parties. With this method, construction can begin on some parts of a building before the documents are complete as well. For example, the contractor can start work on the foundations in the fall while the rest of the building is still being detailed so they don’t have to wait through winter to start construction. This can’t happen in the traditional Design-Bid-Build because the owner does not have a contractual relationship with a contractor until the drawings are complete.


Now that you have a better understanding of project delivery methods, you should feel much more comfortable answering questions on the ARE. It’s always hard to predict which topics will be covered on each ARE exam, but it’s always better to have a solid understanding of the general concept and how it applies to the real world.

For concepts such as project delivery methods, knowing how each type applies to real-world situations is probably the most important thing to take away from this section. Like I said above, you’re likely to see questions appear on the ARE Construction Documents Exam that relate to project delivery.