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Design-Assist vs. Design-Build: Capitalizing on the Efficiencies while Addressing the Risks

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Recorded event now available

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This CLE course will address the distinction between design-assist and design-build in design and construction. Design-build presents an alternative to the classic design-bid-build project delivery method; design-assist presents a supplement to both delivery methods. While design-build and design-assist offer significant efficiencies, both also each present their own issues. The panel will guide construction counsel on the nuances of these practices, their advantages, and how to best address their unique liabilities.


Fundamental to every construction project, the owner must make a determination as to how the project will be designed and built. Though the traditional design-bid-build delivery method has been predominant over the last century, the design-build delivery method has made a recent resurgence over the last few decades due to certain efficiency advantages it offers owners. In turn, design-assist is a newer practice that has recently gained favor based on advantages comparable and complimentary to those offered by design-build.

Under a design-assist arrangement, the contractor/construction manager and specialty subcontractors are brought in to work with the design professional during the design phase to provide “boots on the ground” input and thereby improve constructability and reduce time and cost. In theory, design-assist services will address concerns about plans early on in the design process rather than at bid time or during construction, when it may be too late to solve these problems efficiently. In theory, design-assist should reduce both RFIs and change orders during the course of the project. However, because of its novelty, design-assist agreements and liabilities have not been standardized and therefore present pitfalls for various project participants, including specialty subcontractors. Design-assist services can be used in conjunction with either a design-bid-build delivery method or design-build delivery method.

Design-build offers advantages in line with design-assist. In a design-build delivery method, the owner contracts with a single design-build contractor who bears responsibility for both design and construction. As this system is integrated, there is less assignment of liability and the owner has the benefit of a single primary contact as well as greater coordination between the design and construction roles. Like with design-assist, the contractor has the ability to control the design process with an eye towards constructability, and it may utilize design-assist services by relying on input from specialty subcontractors when doing so.

Listen as our authoritative panel addresses the advantages and disadvantages of the use of a design-assist versus a design-build construction agreement and how to mitigate risk after selecting the form.



  1. Design-assist
    1. Definition and in practice
    2. Assignment of liability
    3. Certification requirements
    4. 2018 consensus doc 541 design-assist addendum
  2. Design-build
    1. Definition and in practice
    2. Assignment of liability
    3. Certification requirements
    4. Best design-build forms


The panel will review these and other issues:

  • What are the pros and cons of utilizing design-assist and design-build?
  • How can liabilities be properly allocated in design-assist and design-build?
  • What are best practices when utilizing design-assist and design-build?


Copley, Jason
Jason A. Copley

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman

Mr. Copley acts as counsel to a wide range of construction clients, including general contractors, subcontractors,...  |  Read More

Seglias, Edward
Edward Seglias

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman

Mr. Seglias is a highly regarded trial lawyer, noted for his wealth of experience in construction disputes. He has...  |  Read More

Skaroff, Matthew
Matthew R. Skaroff

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman

Mr. Skaroff concentrates his practice in construction litigation and represents contractors, subcontractors, design...  |  Read More

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