The Difference Between Turnkey & Design-Build Construction

In the realm of construction, there are a variety of project delivery methods available to fulfill different objectives and suit specific needs. Two popular industry approaches are turnkey and design-build. While both methods involve a streamlined approach to construction, they differ in terms of project control, responsibilities, and overall project outcomes. 

In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between turnkey and design-build, shedding light on their unique characteristics and helping you make informed decisions for your construction projects.

What are Turnkey and Design-Build?


Turnkey projects are a comprehensive solution where a single entity, such as a contractor or developer, assumes full responsibility for the entire construction process. From initial design to final completion, the turnkey contractor handles all aspects, including design, procurement, construction, and often even the interior finishes. The client typically hands over the project to the turnkey provider and receives a fully functional and ready-to-use home or facility upon completion.


Design-build is a collaborative project delivery method that involves a single team responsible for both the design and construction phases. In design-build, the owner enters into a contract with a design-build entity, commonly consisting of a general contractor and an architect/engineering firm. This team works together from project inception, seamlessly integrating the design and construction processes, often with an emphasis on cost and time efficiency.

Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between the two:

Project Control & OwnershipClient has minimal involvement in decision makingProvider assumes primary control over executionProvider is responsible for delivering a fully functional finished productFrees up valuable time and resourcesCollaborative environmentOwner has more involvement and controlClient actively participates in key decisionsHands-on approach means greater customization and adaptability
Responsibility & AccountabilityResponsibility rests entirely on the turnkey providerProvider oversees from concept to completionAccountable for any challenges or issues that may ariseComprehensive responsibility provides peace of mind to clientsSingle point of contact for the entire projectResponsibility is shared between design team and contractorCollaborative nature allows for faster decision-making and problem solvingClient gets direct communication with the team to provide feedback and make adjustments as needed
Flexibility & AdaptabilityPriority is speed and efficiencyChanges and modifications during construction can be challenging to accommodateClient’s input is limited to initial project requirementsAlterations made later could incur additional cost or delayAllows for more flexibility and adjustments throughout the processClient involvement and feedback plays a crucial role in refining the design and incorporating changesBeneficial when unexpected challenges arise or when the project needs to be modified to meet evolving needs

Assessing the specific requirements and objectives of a project is crucial in determining which method aligns best with your vision and goals. 

Construction manager vs general contractor

Another thing to think about is whether you want to have a construction manager oversee all the project for you or whether it’s better to work with general contractors for this project. 

Much like turnkey, a construction manager, or project manager, oversees and manages various aspects of a construction project from inception to completion. Their primary goal is to ensure that the project is executed efficiently, within budget, and adheres to the required quality and safety standards.

Construction Manager responsibilities include: 

  • Project planning
  • Contract management 
  • Resource coordination
  • Budget and cost control
  • Risk management
  • Communication and stakeholder management

If you’re working with a design-build project, you’ll want to use general contractors. These are typically hired directly by the client. They’re responsible for the overall management and coordination of a construction project in the day-to-day operations.

General Contractor responsibilities include: 

  • Subcontractor management 
  • Construction supervision
  • Material procurement
  • Schedule management
  • Quality control
  • Client communication

How Chriscan approaches projects

For over 30 years, our team has worked on both turnkey and design-build projects. Our team is just as comfortable as a general contractor working with a design or architect team as we are as lead so that you can be fully hands-off. Drawing from years of experience, our well-rounded team of professionals are ready for whatever our clients’ needs and interest in being involved is. 

Some of our projects: 

Design-build projects

  1. Glenmore Dental
the reception desk at Glenmore Dental, a design-build project by Chriscan Construction
the waiting room at glenmore dental with wood and plant accents

In our client’s words

From the inception of this project to the completion, Chriscan has provided me with exceptional service. They were always available and responded in a very timely fashion. Every week I met with Lee Findlay, our project manager and he explained what was happening, what the next steps were and if there were any concerns or problems. 

Anytime there were alterations to the original plan then we discussed this and it was followed up by an email confirming the changes for which a change order had to be signed. This was a completely transparent process where I never felt there was going to be a hidden surprise bill or cost. This resulted in a peace of mind, knowing that my project and money was taken seriously.” – Ersilia Coccaro, DMD, PhD

2. Adams Road Industrial

Adams road industrial building, a design-build project by Chriscan Construction.

In our client’s words

This project was completed by Chriscan construction on a design build basis in collaboration with Novation Architecture. Teamwork through the construction phases was paramount to the success of this project and to bring the clients vision to life.” 

Turnkey Projects

  1. Siwoski Dental
An exterior view of Siwoski dental with the front parking lot, a turnkey project by Chriscan Construction

In our client’s words

Having my professional building and new dental clinic built by Chriscan Construction was a great decision! My dream project started with a wild concept which the entire Chriscan team focused into a detailed plan with a magnificent end result. 

Special acknowledgements to Jim Kitchin who was highly knowledgeable and involved throughout the architectural, planning and building process. Lots of gratitude and thanks to Lee Findlay who coordinated onsite the entire build. 

I was super impressed with his high level of organization, clear communication and budget focused solutions to problems. I would highly recommend Chriscan for any commercial and/or dental projects.” – Dr Arek Siwoski

  1. Oliver Dental Care
A collage of the exterior building for Oliver Dental Care dental clinic, a turnkey project by Chriscan Construction

In our client’s words

I had the opportunity to have Chriscan Construction take on my addition and renovation project of a commercial building for my dental office. They were excellent communicators and were very responsive throughout the entire project.

I’m very happy with the quality of their work and the people I worked with. I recommend them without reservation. I had the pleasure of having Shaun Fell as our onsite project manager. He’s great to talk to and did an excellent job explaining our options when we ran into some questions with the renovation side of the project. 

I was really impressed with how we worked on timelines and for the most part kept to them, especially in this time of supply line issues and shortages.” – Dr. Jordan Noftle

Work with us on your next project

Choosing between turnkey and design-build for a construction project depends on various factors, including the level of control desired, project complexity, and the client’s involvement in decision-making. Turnkey projects provide a hands-off approach with a single point of responsibility, while design-build fosters collaboration and adaptability. 

Ultimately, the success of any construction project hinges on clear communication, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the chosen project delivery method. By considering the key differences between turnkey and design-build, you can make informed decisions and set the stage for a successful construction endeavor.

With Chriscan Construction, you can be sure that you’re working with a company that’s prepared to put in the work for you. Whether you want to be hands-on and involved every step of the way or you want to hand the project over to us to take care of the details so you can focus elsewhere, we’re here to put in the work. 

Get in touch today to start on your dream project.

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