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  • Writer's pictureWestring Construction

Design-Build Contractor vs. General Contractor

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Understanding the difference between a design-build (D-B) contractor and a general contractor ensures you’ll be working with the correct professionals for your remodel or building project.

Design-Build Contractor

The design-build concept is streamlined with a single point of contact for the client. One firm manages the project from design to the very last detail. This process builds a close relationship between the client and the firm since everyone is at the table from the beginning. The design team and build team are integrated into the project from the start. Practically speaking, this coordination of the design team and build team from inception means fewer trips back to the drawing board because of a mismatch between vision and execution. Any project may suffer a surprise or two but with this team approach, corrections can be identified swiftly, keeping the project on track.

General Contractor

A general contractor (GC) has oversight of the build phase of a project, executing a design furnished to them by the client. The GC coordinates the various subcontractors and laborers necessary to complete the project. A general contractor may be a person or a company. If the GC is an individual, he or she is the point of contact for the client. If it is a company, there will be a project manager who is the main manager and point of contact. A general contracting company may also directly employ some of the laborers, but most of the work will be handed off to subcontractors. On larger projects, especially, much of the work will be contracted out.


Both a design-build contractor and a general contractor, or the project manager for the GC, supervise their own labor and oversee the work of subcontractors. A GC works from a design provided to them. A D-B contractor can also work from a design provided to them. In this case, they more resemble a GC, although their work as designers gives them a deeper insight into the execution of that design.

Differences Between a Design-Build Contractor and a GC

The first difference is the most obvious: D-B contractors work with the client from the beginning in designing the project. A GC works from plans presented to them.

The design team and build team of a design-build contractor collaborate with each other and with the client to create a seamless project plan. A GC brings in subcontractors to execute the various phases of the project as they fit into the subcontractor’s schedule. This may lead to delays in the project.

So, what is the best choice for your project? The overall benefit of hiring a design-build contractor is the flexibility to work with one firm for the entire project or the ability to bring a design you already have. In either case, their expertise in both phases – design and build – is a solid foundation for making your vision a reality.

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