Design-Build: Paradigm Shifts in the Construction Industry 

Design-Build (DB) is the fastest growing project delivery method in North America. It is founded on the premise of close alignment and collaboration between the design and construction teams and is based on the operational model of a single client contract under which an integrated, joint expertise service is provided throughout the phases of the project. 


Outpacing design-bid-build and other traditional methods, Design-Build provides an integrated workflow process, reduces the risk of unforeseen circumstances, and minimizes the delays, schedule changes, and cost overruns, which inevitably result in adversarial positions and stress-inducing situations. The growing popularity of this process attests to its success, not only in maximizing efficiencies, but in fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. 

As part of its integrated delivery system, this process incorporates the procurement of millwork, metal, and stone materials for fixture production as well as customized staircase and storefront constructions, including artisanal creations unique to each brand.

SAJO made its foray into the world of Design-Build in 2010, ranking among the first North American general contractors to integrate DB into retail construction. The initiative was innovative and proved of immense benefit to the client and the whole team of client representatives-designers, architects, engineers, and procurement specialists. 

SAJO has since built close to 1,000 retail construction projects using this method of delivery. It proved successful in implementing shop-in-shop retail programs across department store chains, as well as in building standalone stores and flagships in both street and mall locations.

SAJO’s notable Design-Build projects, whether in a full Design-Build, partial, or pre-construction design-assist capacity, including various brands.

Historically, the precursor of the Design-Build methodology pre-dates modern times. Its source lies in the ancient philosophical concept of the master builder, first called architekton by the Greeks, and later, architectus by the Romans. The modern English word, architect, is derived from these ancient terms, stripped of the original meaning. 

The centuries-old master builder was an enlightened professional, steeped in the knowledge and craftsmanship of design and construction, and committed to the incontrovertible wisdom of integrating the art and science of building. The master builder was the maître d’oeuvre who bore responsibility for the entire project, from conception to planning to site construction. 

It was during the late 18th and 19th centuries, against the backdrop of emerging specialties, that design and construction became separate and distinct disciplines. The master builder concept faded over time, with a concomitant drop in the performance norms of the built environment.  

In the past few decades, the ancient principle of the master builder was reinstated in the garb and language of the modern-day, project delivery method known as Design-Build. In recognition of its strategic advantage to the construction industry, the Design Build Institute of America (DBIA) was founded, 1993, Washington DC, under the leadership of Preston Haskell who sought to promote its merits and extend its reach across America. Today, the Design-Build market, which represents nearly half of America’s construction dollars, is expected to reach the US$400 billion mark in 2026. 

Canada followed suit in 1998 with the Canadian Design-Build Institute (CDBI), established under the auspices of the Canadian Construction Association, and serving to underscore the economic and communal impact of quality-driven Design-Build projects in both the private and public sectors.

SAJO’s culture of innovation and use of integrated technology further serves to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the Design-Build process, as well as facilitate communication among all project participants. Leveraging collaborative digital platforms such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) with Revit modelling, 3D laser scanning (LiDAR) solutions, robot tracing and printing, and holographic devices yields a seamless immersive experience across workflows from design to construction. The application of AI technology further streamlines and optimizes the Design-Build process.

With the increasing aspiration of both architectural firms and contractors to provide integrated design and construction services, the master builder concept and philosophy has once again become manifest in the modern-day industry of DB.

The Anatomy of Building by SAJO.pdf


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