How to Choose Construction Delivery Methods

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

When you were a child, all you had to do was put on that hard hat and you were the authority on construction. In reality, construction projects are complicated undertakings. Fortunately, understanding the delivery methods available for your building project can help mitigate many of the challenges. This guide walks you through the basics of three common delivery methods.

Design/Bid/Build. An architect designs and engineers the entire project. General contractors then bid based on the architect’s plans.


  • Well understood in the industry.
  • Competition creates a low initial bid.


  • Contractors only bid on what the plans specify. Items added to the plans will become change orders.
  • Your ministry is responsible for design and constructability; no input from the contractor is provided prior to bidding.
  • The architect and contractor are not always aligned in their approach and interpretation of the drawings.
  • There’s no opportunity for value engineering during the design phase.

Who does this delivery method work for? With the options available today, professionals rarely recommend this approach due to the risk involved.

Design/Build. A single source designs and constructs under one contract.


  • One contract simplifies the church’s interactions with vendors.
  • Once the scope of the work and contract price are established, the only change orders are for owner-initiated changes.


  • Requires careful selection of the team.
  • Lack of checks and balances between design and construction.
  • Potential for conflict of interest to interfere with quality.

Who does this delivery method work for? Design/Build can be a reasonable choice for a smaller ministry with a fairly simple project.

Team Build or Construction Management. A general contractor serves on a building team with an architect and church representative from beginning of design through completion of construction. Individual contracts are used for each entity.


  • The church, architect, and contractor work as a team.
  • Value engineering comes in at the design stage. Any issues are addressed pre-construction, saving time and cost.
  • Competitive bidding. Contractor overhead and profit are established at the beginning of design. When plans near completion, all trade work is competitively bid to assure cost control. A guaranteed maximum price is provided.


  • Success requires careful selection of the right team.
  • Separate contracts must be administered by the church.

Who does this delivery method work for? This is often the most recommended delivery method and could work well for any ministry.

According to Wendell Clark, Director of Business Development at J. D. Diffenbaugh, Inc., a successful building project boils down to choosing your team early and choosing the right team. Don Hughes, Sales Director at ECCU, agrees, adding that “the best way to prevent financial complications is to combine the right people with a well-developed plan.” For Hughes, the bottom line is clear: “A great team builds a great project.”

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