The role of the builder

Builders (general contractors) provide construction services based on architects’ designs and are best suited to define construction methods and sequences, estimate costs, and coordinate the work of subcontractors. They typically will control the budget and schedule for the work, and be responsible to the owner and the architect for the quality of their workmanship and conformity with the design intent.

Your contract with the builder may be based on a lump-sum price or be billed on a time and materials, or T&M, basis, with or without a guaranteed maximum price, or GMP, determined at the start.

As the client, you are ultimately responsible for selecting and paying your builder. If you would like, your architect can assist you in finding builders to consider and may help you review their credentials. To determine whether a builder is registered to do business in Massachusetts, call the Department of Public Safety at 617-727-3200 or check online at To check for complaints filed against a builder, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400.

Three approaches to hiring a builder

  1. In a competitive bidding process, bids are requested from several builders who outline their credentials and approaches to cost, schedule, and logistics for the project construction. The bidders all use the same design drawings to develop their bids, so, theoretically, the estimates received are comparable.
  2. In a negotiated contract, your architect helps you develop the cost, schedule, and scope of work through discussions with a single builder. In this model, the builder is selected much the same way the architect is selected—on the basis of credentials and personal “fit” with the project. He or she becomes part of a three-way partnership with you and your architect. Competitive bidding takes place at the subcontractor level, overseen by the builder.
  3. Hiring a design-build company allows you to obtain both design and building services from a single source (provided that the design-build company actually works with an architect registered in Massachusetts).