What Is the Difference Between Turnkey and Design-Build Construction?

Building projects have different starting points. You might hire out for a set of plans for a structure and contract a company to build it—that’s the traditional approach. But today, in the modern age of customization, many project owners want more control. It’s led to a rise in both design-build and turnkey construction.

But what’s the difference between the two? Does it matter? If you’re getting ready to build in Indiana and are trying to figure out the right starting point, it’s best to know the difference between the two concepts. Both give you control over the structure you want to build, but they offer that control in different capacities.


Design-build construction is aptly named because the same firm does both the designing and the building for your project. Project owners dictate the process, telling the firm exactly what they want, when they want it and how they want it done. If you’re looking for complete control over your building project, it’s often best to work with a design-build firm.

Of course, there’s a dark side to all this control. Design-build projects often take longer and can run over budget if you’re not careful. The ability to make changes and set deadlines often leads owners to overshoot their own expectations. It’s a lot to handle—especially if you’re unfamiliar with construction.


Turnkey projects also give owners the control to say what they want and how they want it done. The difference? The construction company provides the project management services, dictating things like schedule and budget allocation. Working with a turnkey company can protect you in case your project hits setbacks—the firm often covers overages, since they fall under project management responsibilities.

Handing off the project management aspect of your job may seem like giving up control, but it’s often well worth it. Not having to worry about overseeing a massive building project is worth the cost alone! Your structure is likely to get built on time, under budget, with an end result that looks exactly like you want it to.

Which is better?

So, now that you better understand some key design-build and turnkey construction facts, which one is better? Well, it all depends on how much control you think you need or want to have. Are you a Type A person who needs to be in control of everything, including schedules, contractors and budget? Design-build might be for you. Are you fine making high-level decisions and leaving the day-to-day details to someone else? Turnkey construction is probably smarter.

There’s no right answer to this question—only preference. It’s best to look at how involved you want to be and what responsibilities you want to have before making the decision. Just remember, either way you’re going to get the results you want!

The difference between design-build and turnkey construction comes down to how intimately involved in the building process you want to be. Either way, it’s best to consult at length with a reputable contractor in Indiana before you break ground.

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