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A quarter of European contracting firms do design-build projects

Traditionally, construction projects are realised by having an architect design a building and putting out a tender request to contractors, after which the selected contractor is responsible for the construction phase. Nowadays, next to these traditional design-tender contracts, another method for the delivery of construction projects in which a single entity is responsible for both design and construction is on the rise. In this design-build method the design-builder or design-build contractor is responsible for the whole process, including architectural services, construction and installation services, and provides these services either internally or by outsourcing them. This method is already quite popular in the US, where a substantial share of non-residential projects are design-build projects.

Design-build contracts

To get an insight in the current developments of these methods in the European construction industry, USP included the topic in the H1 2019 Contractor Monitor and interviewed contractors from eight European countries about their experience with design-build contracts and what share of their projects involves more than just the traditional construction phase.

Differences between contractors

Of all projects European contractors are involved in, about a quarter of all contracts are design-build contracts. This percentage is the same for both medium and larger size contractor companies, at least on a European level. When looking at characteristics other than size, however, differences do occur. For contractor companies that also develop their own projects, the share of design-tender contracts is about a third of the total contracts, which is significantly higher than the shares of contracts of contractor companies that focus only on construction.

We also asked contractors how services other than construction, like architectural and engineering services are organised, and a split similar to the one above can be seen. Contractors that are involved in developing their own projects more often have architectural services and engineering services integrated in their own company (26% and 37% respectively) than contractors that do not develop their own projects.

Country level

At a country level, vast differences occur. In Spain and Poland, the shares of design-build contracts are well below the European average (11% and 15% respectively). In France, on the other hand, a staggering 49% of all contracts are design-build, putting the French contractors in the lead where it comes to design-build. Also, and not surprisingly, France has the highest percentage of contractors that organise architectural services within their own company. In the Netherlands, the percentage of design build contracts is rather low, with only 10% design-build versus 66% traditional contracts. What stands out though, is that about a quarter of Dutch contractors are also working with other types of contracts, which are not specifically the traditional type or design-build contracts. This could be due to their self-developed concepts, as well as the joint ventures they form with other services, which is something Dutch contractors do more often than their European colleagues.


Although more in some countries than in others, design-build projects seem to be on the rise among European contractors. The design-build contractors involved are very influential decision makers in most phases of these projects, making them interesting players for manufacturers and brands to focus on.

H1 2019 Contractor monitor

For more detailed information about design-build and traditional contracts, and the organisation of services among contractors from eight European countries, as well as contractors’ perspectives on and usage of digitalisation in construction, we refer you to the H1 2019 Contractor monitor.