By Jeff Eriks

Cambridge delivers turnkey projects in record times and at lower costs by integrating design-build construction process.

Construction of large turnkey projects can become quite a big task. There are many subcontractors including designers, construction companies, suppliers, and general contractors. Managing a large-scale project is definitely not easy. Even if you get the best designers, architects, and engineers to work on the commercial building, time delays and cost overruns are quite a common phenomenon.

Design-build is a concept that has taken the construction industry by storm. This is where the owner contracts the entire project out to one entity that bears the risk of the whole project. It is the job of this entity to further hire the necessary subcontractors or engineers to design and build the project.

Sounds interesting, isn’t it? Well, many organizations think so. Design-build is the preferred method for almost 44% of large-scale constructions in the US today. There are really a lot of advantages that this process offers which is why it is gaining popularity. 

This blog will discuss the design-build construction process in detail and how Cambridge delivers turnkey projects in record times and at lower costs by integrating the construction process. Let’s go.

How Does the Design-Build Process Work? 

The build-design process makes it quite hassle-free for the owner or the investor to run a large construction project. The owner finds a commercial construction company that can handle all parts of the process end-to-end and contracts them. This means that they don’t have to deal with multiple teams for the construction and there’s one entity that is responsible for the entire building project.

Design-build is suitable for all types of commercial construction jobs including small-scale and multi-family residential construction, shopping centers, high-rise commercial construction projects, special projects that are publicly funded, and a lot more. This is also well suited for ground-up build-outs or large-scale renovations.

In a traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) process, it is often the case that the owner approaches a design or architectural firm first to design the whole project. Then the bidding process takes place where the various construction companies or engineering organizations bid for the project quoting their rates. This is when the cost of the project is generally established. There is also likely to be a lot of back and forth between the construction and design companies because the contractors have not been consulted in the design and based on their experience or expertise, some level of redesign may be needed. Generally, the owner carries a lot of risk in this process too.

In the design-build process, the cost for the project and other details are established in a much more concrete way early in the process because of how all the teams work together right from the start. The number of redesigns and iterations is reduced considerably and once the plan is finalized, the construction can happen much more smoothly.

Overall, the design-build process has a few important steps. Here are these steps 

Assembling a Team

If you ask us, this is certainly the most important part of the process where the design-build team comes together. This is not straightforward though. The owner first needs to identify the entity that it’s going to contract to which would involve due diligence and research. There would also be a bid process here where multiple firms vying for the contract.

Once the entity which is going to lead the project is established, it is up to them to hire the rest of the team. To save costs, the entity or company may invite further bids from subcontractors for the various tasks that need to be done before making a final call on the subcontractors.

The main contractor for the design-build project plus the subcontractor now becomes the team for the project who will be tasked with carrying out the construction and delivery of the project as per the specifications.

The Planning Phase

The next phase is the planning phase where the team sits together to plan the entire project out. Here the specifications of the owner are taken into consideration along with the expert inputs from all the members of the team including the designers and engineers. At Cambridge, we use our in-house design experts and engineers to get the best plan in place. Through our years of experience, we understand that the plan is the basis of everything and if this is done well, the rest of the project will be smooth.

The Design

Next up it’s the time to design the facility. In this phase, all inputs from the different teams are actioned to come up with a detailed architectural and electrical design. The design phase will also be the time when the final project costs are finalized after taking bids from the various subcontractors, the materials involved, and other such factors.

Mostly, the design-build firm will give the owner a final budget for the construction project which will be the maximum cost that they will incur and this will be included in the contract. It now becomes the responsibility of the design-build firm to complete the project at this cost. If the cost exceeds the given budget, it’s usually borne by the design-build team unless there are extenuating circumstances.


The construction of the facility then happens when all the teams come together to build the project as per the design and the plan. Given that the plan has been created by the whole team and not just the owner or the project manager, it becomes a much smoother process since there is buy-in from everyone.

There will be constant communication between the various teams and any issues that arise during the construction are dealt with through re-design if needed or other means. 

Handover and Maintenance

The final phase is of course the project handover and the maintenance. This involves training the staff who will be using the property daily and also would involve continuous maintenance of the property once the handover is complete.

Why Design-Build is the Best Way To Go for Turn-Key Projects?

The Design-build approach offers a lot of advantages over other forms of project management. The first and perhaps the most important is the time it takes to complete the project. The design-bid-build process takes a lot of time, especially in the back and forth between the designer and builder once the project gets underway. By bringing these subcontractors or teams together right from the first, there is a lot of time being saved. As per the DBIA, DB projects are 36% faster than DBB projects. The construction manager at risk (CMR) is another popular method of construction and DB is faster than CMR by 13%. In real terms, that is a lot of days saved, and the earlier the facility gets working, the more money the owner stands to make. 

Cost is another parameter to consider. DB projects are cheaper than both CMR and DBB projects. As per DBIA reports, DB projects are 1.9% lower in cost per square foot in comparison to CMR and 0.3% in comparison to DBB. There is also the question of the accuracy of cost. It’s common that the DBB projects to go over the budget because of the disjointed functioning of the team. Design-build projects are usually much more accurate with the costs. This is a very useful aspect if you are relying on a real estate construction loan or any other sort of financing for the project.

One of the areas where owners and project managers really struggle is project management. Most general construction projects struggle because of the sheer size of the project and the number of different teams involved. Since the team comes together right from the beginning and puts the plan together themselves, it becomes much easier to manage the whole project. It also becomes sort of a template to follow for other construction projects if you are using the same team.

How to Get Started on Your Design-Build Project?

Convinced that design-build is what you need for your next project? Well, that’s great. Putting down all your specifications and requirements would be the first thing to do to get started. Listing your needs with clarity will help the DB team plan and design the project with ease. The more time you can spend in this phase the better.

The next thing to do is to find the right construction company to look for. Look at the various construction companies that are out there and invite them to make a pitch for the project. Do your research well in this phase. You need a company that has experience with the kind of projects that you want and the expertise to deliver all your needs. Getting the right partner on board is really half the battle won in a design-build project.

Cambridge Companies is a design-build firm that has worked on a large number of medium-scale and large-scale construction projects across the US. We have in-depth experience in all types of commercial construction projects including factories, waste transfer facilities, truck maintenance shops, and more. Get started on your design-build construction project with help from our experts today!