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Reasons for Turnkey Delivery

The use of a turnkey delivery process, or the transfer of a facility ready for use by the occupants, is a well-established practice throughout the United States. While this method of delivery has been around for decades, it is generating a renewed focus for being a cost-effective and strategic means of managing complex facility needs for varying institutions.

Risk Transference and Other Drivers

The use of a turnkey delivery process, or the transfer of a facility ready for use by the occupants, is a well-established practice throughout the United States. While this method of delivery has been around for decades, it is generating a renewed focus for being a cost-effective and strategic means of managing complex facility needs for varying institutions.

“Other institutions that have struggled to deliver facilities on time and on budget, or are stretched thin with limited resources, may find turnkey strategies to be a useful method of project delivery.”

Turnkey delivery strategies are alternatives to traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB) delivery; they provide risk transference and certainty of delivery to both the public and institutional sectors. Turnkey delivery is flexible and comes in a variety of methods to meet the owner’s procurement requirements. Unlike a traditional DBB approach, turnkey delivery consolidates multiple aspects of development, building design, financing, construction and O&M into a comprehensive facility solution with financial and organizational flexibility and a single point of accountability.

There are four main activities associated with the delivery and operation of a facility throughout its useful life; (1) Development, (2) Design & Construction, (3) Financing, and (4) Operations & Maintenance/Lifecycle Costs. Under the traditional DBB approach, an institution carries the risk and cost uncertainties affiliated with each of these activities. Because the DBB delivery process is linear and generally not integrated, construction cost is not always certain until the design is completed and the drawings are bid. Likewise, operating and lifecycle costs are not truly known until the facility is online and operating. Often times, an institution’s operations group is a separate entity from the real estate and construction department. Effectively managing these risks requires an institution to commit significant resources from various groups to the delivery and operations process. 

Turnkey delivery strategies mitigate these risks by contractually transferring them to the private sector. This allows the government or institution (“Agency”) to conserve resources, and enables people and financial assets to focus on their core organizational mission. Risk transfer can be comprehensive or selective, depending on the project and Agency goals. A turnkey delivery contract combines some Development activities with any or all of the other four main activities described above. With a comprehensive Turnkey-Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (TDBFOM) structure, an institution can transfer all the risk to the private sector in exchange for a guaranteed fixed monthly payment over a defined term.

“The [Turnkey] Design-Build process was critical to the success of the new middle school project. It allowed the Owner many more options throughout the project that would not have been available through a traditional Design-Bid-Build.”— Lois F. Berlin, Ed.D., Superintendent (retired) Falls Church City Public Schools

Agencies that have a good track record in managing project risks and have both adequate, experienced staff and the necessary financial resources, may find that the traditional DBB approach remains their best option for delivering new facilities. Other Agencies that have struggled to deliver facilities on time and on

While risk transference is a major factor for the implementation of a turnkey delivery strategy, other reasons, such as speed of delivery, access to new sources of capital and managing building complexity, have been cited by some institutions as their primary motivator in implementing a turnkey approach. 

Presented in the BEYOND RISK entries are three examples from the Edgemoor port­folio where additional considerations were motivators for the implementation of a turnkey delivery strategy.

Related Case Study

Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School

Falls Church, Virginia