Design & Build, Is it for you?

So, you’re planning an office fit out…

And you’re sitting at your computer, debating whether to go with Traditional Procurement or Design & Build. There are numerous things to consider when researching both options.
These include:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Money

Both procurement options have their pros and cons. However, in order to choose the best option for your company, you need to know the key differences between them.

What is Traditional Procurement?

With this approach, you initially appoint a team of consultants to undertake the project.This team comprises of an architect/interior designer, cost consultant, project manager,engineer and assigned certifier, health and safety consultant and if required, a fire consultant. These consultants represent you and collaboratively control the delivery of your project.

Consulting begins:

  • Designers develop a brief with the client.
  • This design becomes more detailed and issued to the other consultants.
  • The other consultants design the M&E, Structural, IT and AV packages.
  • Documents are combined, detailed and reviewed.
  • A tender file is now complete, full of drawings, designs, specifications and details.
  • This tender document forms the basis of the bidding process.

The Design Team issues the drawings and scope of works to a selection of main contractors who return their prices based on this design. The team of consultants review their quotations, time frames, qualifications, previous projects and experience. The contractor is then selected and the pre-construction period can start. The main contractor will plan, coordinate and control the project from inception to completion aimed at meeting a client’s requirements. The on-site work can then begin.


  • You select your design team.With this option, you can carefully choose a team to suit your specific needs, style and budget constraints.
  • Your design team works for you,not the main contractor. An independent team should have the aim of creating the best design for you within your budget, versus trying to keep costs low for the contractor.


  • Generally, the lowest bidder is selected, rather than the bid that brings the best value for the price.
  • The contractor is not on board early in the process so they can’t review the drawings for construct-ability and give initial feedback on ways to build the project faster, for less money, or add value.
  • There is an increased possibility of change orders and cost increases with this approach as the builder is not part of the design process. If this occurs,tensions can heighten between the contractor, client and design team and the initial drawings can be heavily scrutinised. All of this adds time to the pre-construction period and lengthens the programme.
  • The process of selecting a main contractor takes time, therefore delaying the project’s start date.This approach is not suitable for fast track projects.

A Traditional Case Study

Client: HPRA

Duration: 9 weeks

Project information:

– HPRA, 4th Floor of 6 Earlsfort Centre, D2
-Procurement via Public Procuremnt and E tenders
-Wejchert Architects (Brian Glaholm)

Metec Engineering were Services Engineers on this project and the M&E contractor were engaged directly by HPRA also FKM were responsible for coordination of services and works and acting as PSCS. The client contracted directly with the Electrical and Mechanical contractors and these were treaded as Artisans/Tradesmen directly employed by Client Under the GCCC suit of contracts.
That said the PSCS was FKM and FKM had to Coordinate the installation and the manage the H&S on Site.

What is Design & Build?

With this approach, one contractor is appointed to both design and construct your project. The preparation stage of this method is of great importance to ensure the overall project is well planned. A clear, concise brief is developed between you and the contractor’s design department. Your needs and interior goals directly inform the design of your space.

Once the design is fully developed and detailed, a draft programme and drawings are submitted for your approval. This is reviewed with the contractor’s design department and forms a functioning workshop. It is important that drawings and details are explained collaboratively for a better understanding of the concept. Since the contractor is your single point of contact, it’s vital that they fully understand your goals in order to deliver the full ‘turnkey’ offering.

The design department will:

  • Understand your goals.
  • Understand your company culture.
  • Optimise your new space to increase productivity.
  • Be incredibly forward thinking.
  • Design sustainably.
  • Deliver trends and style that works for you.

From here, the contractor is responsible for providing all the necessary services. This includes hiring specialised sub-contractors, ensuring the project is delivered on time, on budget, accident free and optimise value for expenditure. On a day-to-day basis, the Design Build contractor manages the building permits, security, utilities, personnel, site surveying and engineering, waste management, schedules, cash flows and records.


  • Timesaving – Since the contractor takes full responsibility for the project, there is a reduced time commitment from you. The overall programme is reduced because the design can evolve in parallel with the construction planning of the job.
  • Efficient communication – Info flow is simplified as you have a single point of contact throughout this process, this allows for open and frequent conversations.
  • Accountability – The contractor is responsible for the entire project, including how the end result looks, how much it costs and how quickly it is completed. The process and costs are transparent throughout.
  • Continuity – Quality assurance and quality control has a singe owner – the contractor who has oversight of the project from start to finish.


  • If you do not engage in a competitive dialogue form of procurement from the outset you leave yourself open to paying a higher final cost as you are not tendering competitively.
  • When you rely on the contractor to oversee all elements of your project, you may lose some involvement in the overall process. This can work against you if your vision is not properly communicated in the initial conversations. It is important that mutual understanding and agreement of your project goals is achieved.

A Design & Build Case Study

Client: Biomarin

Duration: 14 weeks

Size: 18,000 sq.ft

Project information:

The architectural design was to create a vibrant yet relaxed office environment for BioMarin’s new Dublin HQ. The brief required a mix of cellular offices, open office workstations and auxiliary spaces including a gym and shower facilities. We acknowledged the company’s previous international office designs whilst maintaining a harmony with the existing space.

Take your next steps..

  1. Research: Look into contractors whose previous design projects appeal to you and your style.
  2. Consult Professionals: Ask around – if you’re going to external meetings in different offices and love their space, ask who designed it. Seeking out impartial professional advice is key, so consult professionals in the construction field.
  3. Check your Budget: Find out, early on, if your budget is realistic for the project you have in mind.

Contact us today and let FKM help you take your next steps!

Contact Breda Gleeson, COO – 086 780 2288 /