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Understanding the Time Frame in Design-Build Projects: It’s More Complicated Than You Think

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

When it comes to design-build projects, the question that tops the list of client inquiries is almost always: "What is the time frame for completing my project?" While this question seems straightforward, the answer is often far from simple. Let's delve into the factors that contribute to the timeline of a design-build project.

Your Role in Setting the Pace

Believe it or not, you—the client—play a significant role in how quickly a project can move from the drawing board to completion. Have you compiled a collection of images, diagrams, or Pinterest boards that articulate your vision clearly? Timely and effective communication with your design-build team is crucial for keeping things on track. The faster you respond to queries and approve designs, the smoother the process will be.

Planning Phase: Setting the Foundation

Every solid project needs a well-thought-out plan. This includes drafting, reviewing, and approving the project designs. Typically, you can expect this stage to last between 2 to 4 weeks, assuming that there are no significant revisions or iterations required. If you’re lucky and everything aligns perfectly on the first try, you could expedite this phase.

Navigating Permits and Approvals

Navigating permits with local municipalities can add another layer of time to your project. Especially when Architectural Review Boards (ARB) and Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) get involved, timelines can stretch. These bodies may require changes to your initial plans, often escalating costs and extending deadlines. Permit acquisition usually takes an additional 2-4 weeks, although it can be longer.

Pro Tip: Working with a General Contractor (GC) who offers in-house architecture and design services can streamline communication and speed up the permit phase.

Scope of Work: Every Project is Unique

The size and complexity of your project further influence its timeline. While building a new house may take a minimum of 4 months, renovating a bathroom could be completed in just a couple of weeks.

The Preliminary Phase: Adding it All Up

Between planning, permits, and preparation, you’re looking at a minimum of 4 to 8 weeks before actual construction or renovation work begins. This duration starts the moment you commit to working with your chosen design-build company or architect.

Putting It Into Production

Once you have plan approvals and signed contracts, your project can move into the production phase. Supplier lead times for materials also need to be factored into the overall schedule. A well-coordinated design-build team will have established relationships with suppliers, which can make scheduling more predictable.

Finalizing the Schedule

By the time you've navigated planning, permitting, and procurement, you should have a clear calendar outlining when various stages of the project will be completed. This allows for realistic expectations and helps keep everyone accountable.

In summary, a design-build project's timeline involves multiple variables, many of which are influenced by you, the client. Keeping these factors in mind will help you have a better grasp of what to expect when embarking on such a project.


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