Like my opinion on most topics, this one is based on experience and not research. So fact-checkers have at it, I do not care. I’ve seen proof of this opinion too many times to be convinced otherwise.
The label “Design-Build” (DB) is being blurred with that of “Integrated Project Delivery” (IPD) of projects, so let me first define each method as I have seen them executed over the last 30 years. In the DB approach, the general contractor is a single source of design and construction for the owner: acting as the owner’s architect, engineer and contractor, the general contractor holds the services contracts for all professional and construction disciplines. The Owner then has a single contract direct with the G.C. The IPD method requires the project’s parties- architects, engineers, and contractor(s)- to work together as a team for the Owner’s interests, but with each contracting separately to the owner. These days, general contractors have begun advertising DB as IPD. But no matter what the ads are pitching, the key difference between these methods of project delivery is who holds your contract and what influence that has in identifying and serving the Owner’s interests. There are many variables in any arrangement of project services, all of which rest upon trust. A project’s success in realizing the Owner’s interests is most strongly influenced by who holds whose contract. If your boss says don’t tell the owner or you will not get paid, then an untrustworthy person holds your contract.
I suggest labeling the method of a team of professionals all working together , but contracted separately, as “Team Owner” (TO). If the Owner holds your contract directly, then the Owner is your client, period. No matter the delivery method and what may have been said about it at the outset, the party holding your contract is your client.