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History of the Term, Design-Build

In 1993, the founders of DBIA settled on the term design-build as the official name for the integrated project delivery method their companies had been using. Design-build had been used for thousands of years, however, under a few different names.

The original term for this delivery method was master builder, or master mason. This referred to the actual person leading the project such as Ictinus and Callicrates, builders of the Parthenon in Athens; Abbe Suger for his twelfth century Gothic Royal Abbey Church of Saint Denis outside Paris; and Filippo Brunelleschi for the Dome of the Florence Cathedral in the early 15th century. They each provided a seamless service that included what we now refer to as design and construction or, more recently, as design-build.

The singular responsibility for design and construction had been codified long before these master builders in Hammurabi’s Code. The Roman writer, engineer and architect, Vitruvius, wrote the original design handbook in 40 B.C.E. The handbook assumes that the responsibilities for design and construction were vested in a single individual.

The services of designers and builders began to separate after the dawn of the industrial revolution. Because of the complexity of new industrial facilities, design expertise and specialization were required from the designers, but not to the same degree from the builders. The Industrial Revolution also called for dividing the production process into basic, individual tasks. The dramatic difference between the intellectual process of design and the physical act of construction made the design and construction industry easy to separate.

As building systems became technically more demanding, the design and construction fields began to overlap more frequently. This led to the use of the term design/construct. One of DBIA’s founders, Preston Haskell, described why we didn’t decide to use that term, “During the first meeting of the steering committee, we talked about what we should call the new organization. At that time, ‘Design/Construct’ and ‘Design-Build’ were used almost interchangeably to describe the project delivery method. Design-build flowed off the tongue better and we decided upon the name Design-Build Institute of America.”

For the past 20 years, DBIA has ensured that design-build remains in the industry’s lexicon by defining, teaching and promoting the process at every opportunity we have. The term has since been written into legislation, submitted as testimony and used freely in conversation. DBIA is so proud of the work our dedicated board, and staff have done over the past two decades to achieve this.

The above information can be found in "Design-Build: Planning through Development" available for purchase here.


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