More and more architects are considering design/build as an opportunity for increasing both design excellence and profitability. The benefits for an architect to engage in design/build include a longer engagement period with the client, greater involvement with the construction phase, and more revenue per project. The downside? Traditional contractor-led design/build may limit the role of the architect and, in architect-led design/build, the financial risks can be substantial.

On June 26, AIA Contract Documents launched the next generation of design/build agreements that reflect the delivery method’s legacy as well as the current practice landscape. Of course, the previous iteration of design/build contract documents (ending in -2004) will still be available in tandem to the new ones (ending in -2014) until December 2015.

The latest edition of AIA’s The Architects Handbook of Professional Practice, 15th edition (Wiley 2013) includes both time-tested and timely knowledge about design/build. The new Handbook also provides information about the design/build family of AIA Contract Documents. Design/build and other project delivery methods are described in Chapter 9 of the Handbook, which can be purchased separately through the AIA Bookstore

Today the most common method of design/build is contractor-led design/build (CLDB). As design and construction became increasingly separate in the 20th century, design/build was largely relegated to industrial facilities at one end of the scale and small residential projects on the other. Until the late 1970s, it was considered unethical for AIA members to participate in design/build due to the erosion of the architect’s role as owner-advocate and the potential for conflict of interest. As a result of this and other factors, design/build methods developed that relied on the constructor to take the primary role, with the architect working as a subcontractor.

Although the 2012 AIA Firm Survey reported that less than 5 percent of AIA members are engaging in architect-led design/build (ALDB), anecdotal evidence shows that it is growing quickly. Related closely to construction management at risk (CMc), the architect takes on the primary responsibility for delivering the design and construction, usually providing a guaranteed maximum price, hiring subcontractors, and managing the entire process. Some states will require the establishment of a design/build or construction management division that is wholly separate from an architect’s design firm. If you form a design/build entity, AIA Document A142–2004, Standard Form of Agreement Between Design-Builder and Contractor, together with its exhibits, can be used to retain construction services for the project.

Joint ventures can also provide a structure for participating in design/build. Architects may partner with a contractor to form a legal entity to construct one project. Joint venture agreements can be crafted by starting with AIA Document C101–1993, Joint Venture Agreement for Professional Services. This document provides for the mutual rights and obligations of two or more parties who, once they have established a joint venture, will enter into a project agreement with the owner. It addresses the issues most commonly encountered in structuring a joint venture.

Learn more about ACD5 at and AHPP at