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Construction Management, General Contracting, and Design-Build: What’s the Difference?

September 8th, 2023 |

It’s time to start that remodeling project for your investment property, but you’re unsure which professionals to hire. The design contractors at R.H. Blanchard have compiled a simple guide to explain the differences between design-build, general contracting, and contract management.


 A design-build company is responsible for the entire project, from design to construction. You will work with a single general contractor who oversees every aspect, from hiring subcontractors to keeping the project on schedule. With one company working on conceptual designs, materials, and scheduling, team members are likelier to stay on the same page.

If your remodel involves an addition, structural changes, plumbing, or electrical work, a design-build company may be the way to go. A skilled and experienced design team is crucial in complex projects, especially if they can readily collaborate with the construction team. 

Design-Build Advantages and Considerations 

Design-build is also a good option for keeping a project on track and on schedule. All team members work for the same company, making it easier to communicate and solve problems. The client does not have to be closely involved with every stage of construction.

One disadvantage to the design-build approach can be a lack of flexibility. For example, changing the design can be time-consuming with a design-build company. Since the scope of the project is highly detailed from the start, any changes can result in significant delays. 

General Contracting

General contractors supervise every aspect of the construction stage. They hire subcontractors and ensure that the work is completed safely and according to the terms of the contract. A general contractor will know construction laws, building codes, and product warranty requirements. For example, certain products must be installed by a professional contractor to satisfy the warranty terms.

General Contracting Advantages and Considerations

If you prefer to be closely involved at every stage of the construction project, from selecting materials to choosing your own design contractors, you may want to work with a general contractor. A general contractor is also a good option for painting, window installation, or other projects that do not require design contractors. 

There are some potential disadvantages when working with a general contractor. Unlike a design-build company, responsibility is divided among multiple parties. When disagreements arise, you may have to act as a mediator. The general contractor and design firm also may come up with different cost estimates, resulting in delays and frustration.

Construction Management

Construction managers have broader responsibilities than general contractors. They work with professionals at every stage of a project, from design contractors to electricians. Unlike a design-build company, a construction manager may work with subcontractors as well as an in-house team. 

Construction Management Advantages and Considerations

A construction manager can coordinate a well-organized, collaborative project that stays on budget. Also known as construction management at risk (CMAR), this approach ensures that all team members understand the design, construction plans, and the client’s vision. 

Do not hire a construction manager simply because they offer a low bid. Ask for multiple bids, check references and carefully review each estimate. 

At RH Blanchard, we offer expert workmanship and construction project management. Contact us and get a free quote for your Boston-area construction project.