Design And Build Contract Risks


The world of construction offers various procurement routes, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. Design and build (D&B) contracts are a popular option, where a single entity assumes responsibility for both the design and construction of a project. While D&B contracts offer streamlined project delivery, they also present unique risks for both employers (project owners) and contractors. At Blackstone Solicitors, a leading law firm across England and Wales, we understand the complexities of D&B contracts and can guide you through mitigating potential risks. In this article, Design And Build Contract Risks, we will delve deeper into the subject.

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What is a Design and Build Contract?

In a D&B contract, the contractor takes on the responsibility for:

  • Design: Developing the technical specifications and construction drawings for the project.
  • Construction: Executing the building works in accordance with the agreed-upon design.

This bundled approach offers several benefits, including:

  • Single Point of Contact: The employer deals with one entity for all aspects of the project, simplifying communication and streamlining decision-making.
  • Faster Project Delivery: By eliminating the need to appoint separate design teams and contractors, D&B contracts can potentially expedite project timelines.
  • Cost Certainty: D&B contracts often involve a fixed price for the entire project, offering employers greater cost predictability.

Potential Risks Associated with D&B Contracts

Despite the advantages, D&B contracts present some inherent risks that require careful consideration:

  • Design Risk: The employer relinquishes some control over the design process, potentially leading to outcomes that deviate from their initial vision or functional requirements.
  • Quality Risk: The contractor may prioritize cost-saving measures during the design phase, potentially compromising the quality of materials or construction methods.
  • Cost Overruns: Unforeseen site conditions or design changes during construction can lead to cost overruns for the contractor, potentially leading to disputes regarding additional payments.
  • Defects and Delays: The contractor bears full responsibility for both design and construction, so any defects or delays can have a significant financial impact on them.
  • Limited Contractor Innovation: Fixed-price D&B contracts may discourage contractors from proposing innovative solutions due to the associated risks of exceeding the agreed-upon budget.

Mitigating Risks in D&B Contracts

Several strategies can be employed to minimize risks associated with D&B contracts:

  • Clear and Detailed Contract: A well-drafted contract outlining the design process, performance guarantees, and change management procedures is crucial.
  • Employer Involvement: While the contractor leads the design, employers can maintain some level of involvement by participating in design reviews and providing feedback.
  • Open Communication: Maintaining open communication channels throughout the project allows for early identification and resolution of any potential issues.
  • Contingency Planning: Factoring in a contingency sum within the contract budget can help address unforeseen site conditions or design changes.
  • Phased Approach: A two-stage D&B approach, with an initial design phase followed by a fixed-price construction stage, can help mitigate design risks.

Blackstone Solicitors: Your Partner in Effective D&B Projects

At Blackstone Solicitors, our construction law specialists possess a deep understanding of D&B contracts. We can assist you in:

  • Reviewing and negotiating contract terms: We will ensure the D&B contract is clear, comprehensive, and allocates risks fairly between the employer and the contractor.
  • Advising on risk mitigation strategies: We will advise on best practices for minimizing design, quality, and cost-related risks within your D&B project.
  • Dispute resolution: In the event of disagreements arising during the project, our team will represent your interests effectively and work towards a swift and favourable resolution.


D&B contracts offer a compelling approach to project delivery, but careful consideration of potential risks is essential. By employing effective risk mitigation strategies and seeking expert legal guidance, both employers and contractors can navigate D&B projects successfully. At Blackstone Solicitors, we are committed to providing you with the legal expertise necessary to ensure your D&B endeavours are well-equipped to overcome challenges and achieve successful outcomes. Contact us today to discuss your specific project requirements and embark on your D&B journey with confidence.

How we can help

We have a proven track-record of helping clients deal with the legal implications of  D&B contracts in construction. We will guide you through all the necessary legal due diligence in a comprehensive and timely manner and support and advise you with all the negotiations. We firmly believe that with the right solicitors by your side, the entire process will seem more manageable and far less daunting.

Please click here to find out more about our construction legal services.

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It is important for you to be well informed about the issues and obstacles you are facing. However, expert legal support is crucial in terms of saving you money and ensuring you achieve a positive outcome.

To speak to our Construction solicitors today, simply call us on 0345 901 0445 , or allow a member of the team to get back to you by filling in our online contact form. We are well known across the country and can assist wherever you are based. We also have offices based in Cheshire and London.

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