What is the Timeline for a Design-Build Project?

Many companies opt for the design-build method of construction to ensure an earlier completion of their project. They work with one provider to handle both the design and construction portions of the project which facilitates communication and minimizes delays. However, before choosing this method, the business owner requesting the project must understand the timeline. Why would a person choose this method? What are the anticipated timelines for various phases?

Why Choose to Complete a Design-Build Project? 

Business owners find this construction method is simpler than hard-bid or construction management at risk projects. It serves as a turn-key solution, as the design-build team takes on the responsibility for completing every phase of the project. There is no need to hire and manage individual contractors to complete various phases of the project. The general contractor assumes this duty, making the project more cost-effective. Furthermore, it takes less time to complete since the design team and construction team work in tandem. What are the different phases of the project, and how long should each phase take to complete? 


The initial planning stage of the project occurs before company representatives meet with any contractors. At this time, internal shareholders come together to establish the groundwork for the project, such as the scope and budget. The pre-planning stage takes anywhere from one to four weeks if the land has already been obtained. If the land has yet to be acquired, this adds to the project timeline. The time needed to complete other tasks depends on the type of commercial construction project being completed. Some projects involve new construction, others include remodeling work, and certain situations call for a complete renovation. 

The First Meeting

When meeting with a general contractor and the design team for the first time, the business owner needs to describe their vision for the project. At this time, project parameters must be identified to make certain everyone is in agreement on the proposed project scope. Expectations are laid out during the meeting, and the contractor provides information on the process. We may ask the business owner to share a survey and other relevant documentation with the construction firm. Along with this, the project budget, company priorities, and design preferences play a role in the initial meeting. 

Pre-Construction Planning

Many business owners who are unfamiliar with the process might wonder what is going on with their project during the pre-construction phase. The timeline depends on the scope of the project, but the process can take anywhere from three to eight months. There is no need to worry, as the design-build team remains hard at work behind the scenes. 

During this project phase, the design-build team carries out vital tasks. An expert assesses the job site and may conduct a feasibility study or site analysis. Relevant zoning regulations undergo a review, and the contractor delves into the facility needs to gain a better understanding of the project goals. 

The design-build team may request additional meetings with the business owners to gather more information. A thorough understanding of the build, the budget, and the financing is required before the project moves forward. At this time, materials and finishes need to be discussed, along with parking, landscaping, and more. While this process may seem long at first, business owners must understand this planning stage forms the foundation for the entire project. Any potential issues are identified at this stage so they can be addressed before interfering with forward progression of the project. 

The Project Design

The design phase brings the business owner’s vision to life. Image renderings, blueprints, and construction documents undergo review so changes can be made where needed. These documents reflect the project cost, so the business owner or their representative must carefully review each document to ensure the project remains within budget. Never sign off on the documents without this thorough review. Doing so saves time and money over changing details mid-project. Expect this process to take anywhere from two to four weeks. 

Finalization of the Documents

Once all revisions are complete, our contractor calls for the final construction drawings to be drafted. An updated cost estimate becomes available at this time. This ensures all parties are in agreement on every aspect of the project. This portion of the process takes three to eight months to complete, depending on the project’s complexity and size. The contractor reviews the final blueprints and budget with the business owner to ensure everything is correct before the construction phase begins. 


The moment everyone has been waiting for arrives! When the construction project begins, all parties see the vision become reality. The job site becomes a hub of activity, with the contractor overseeing every detail of the project. The design documents remain on hand at all times to clear up any confusion on the part of the workers, and the contractor keeps the project flowing smoothly. They take on the responsibility of allocating workers and resources as needed. This helps to keep the project on time and on budget. Some business owners can anticipate seeing the completed project in four to twelve months. The timeline depends in large part on the size of the project, the agreed-upon schedule, and any change orders placed after construction begins. 


Before the design-build team turns the building over to the owner, they conduct a post-construction walkthrough. This allows the team to create a punch list while addressing any concerns. At this time, the owner may be present. Documentation related to the building changes hands at this time, and our construction team will offer training on any systems within the building and how they operate. The final step of the process is complete when the building inspector provides the certificate of occupancy. This portion of the process takes on average three to six weeks. 

Choose the design-build method for your next construction project. Business owners who do so find the project runs more efficiently and they encounter fewer hassles. However, choosing the right firm becomes crucial to achieving this goal. For this reason, a company should never choose its contractor based solely on price. Consider all factors to ensure you get the right company for the job, one that will do the project right the first time. 

About J.M. Thompson:

A family-owned and operated company, J.M. Thompson brings together vast construction knowledge to each project they take on. The team comprises experienced professionals in the industry, as the company is only as good as its employees. The staff assumes full responsibility for the successful projects found in the company portfolio.