Design-Build vs Design-Bid-Build

Choosing the right project delivery method can make or break a construction project. Exploring options like design-build and design-bid-build is crucial to achieving the best outcome for your construction project. These construction methods play a significant role in shaping your project’s budget, timeline, and final quality. Familiarizing yourself with the benefits of each method can guide your project towards its goals, ensuring it keeps to your budget and timeline and ends with a construction achievement you’ll take pride in. Understanding these differences is not just about ticking boxes; it’s about making informed choices that align with your project’s goals, especially when tackling complex challenges like building on a slope and seeing those choices come to life in the work completed.

Design-Build Construction Overview

The Design-Build (DB) methodology is efficient and collaborative in the construction project delivery sphere. Unlike the traditional Design-Bid-Build (DBB), DB merges the design and construction phases under one contract with the project owner. This contract creates a unified team of designers and contractors who work together from start to finish, specializing in various architectural styles, including ranch architecture. This approach not only streamlines the project timeline by blending the design and construction phases but can also lead to cost savings, thanks to removing the bidding phase and increased collaboration from the get-go.

The Implications of Design-Build

design build

However, the DB model comes with its own set of challenges. It places a considerable amount of responsibility, and thus risk, on the design-build team, potentially limiting designers’ creative freedom due to a focus on cost and schedule. The general contractor, who oversees contracts and payments, might lean towards the most cost-effective building methods, which could impact design quality if not monitored closely. Moreover, this approach shifts traditional project risks to the design-build team, requiring them to manage design and construction complexities simultaneously. This collective problem-solving might necessitate additional liability insurance to cover the expanded scope of their responsibilities.

Pros and Cons of Design-Build


Collaboration and Communication: One of the most significant advantages of design-build is the enhanced collaboration between architects, builders, and the client from the project’s inception. This synergy fosters creative solutions and ensures everyone is on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and miscommunications.

Cost and Time Efficiency:  Projects using the design-build approach usually enjoy lower costs and faster completion. This method simplifies the process by combining the design and construction phases, which helps avoid the common delays when waiting for bids or making design changes. Additionally, having one team handle the entire project ensures better coordination of the budget and actual expenses, which helps prevent unforeseen costs.

Single Point of Responsibility: The design-build model provides clients with a single point of contact, simplifying project management and decision-making. This reduces the client’s burden of mediating between separate design and construction contracts and can lead to a smoother project flow.


Limited Design Competition: Unlike the design-bid-build approach, where the design phase is separate and can be competitively bid, design-build offers less opportunity for design and builder competition. A reduced focus on design could limit innovation and creativity in the design process.

Perception of Control: In a design-build contract, where the contractor leads the project, some clients may feel they need more control over the design. This concern arises when foundational elements of the design are finalized while details of the upper levels still need to be decided, introducing potential cost uncertainties and future conflicts. Moreover, unclear costs can lead to disagreements within the design-build team, heightening worries about whether the completed design will meet the client’s expectations without their direct involvement.

Design-Bid-Build Approach

design bid build

Design-Bid-Build (DBB) is a construction process that has been around for a long time and is a well-established tradition. This method divides a project into three phases: design, bidding, and construction. The project owner initiates this strategy by employing an architect and engineer to design the entire project. When the project’s design phase is complete, it is put out for bids, and contractors are invited to submit their estimates for the work. From the initial concept to the end of the project, this method offers clarity throughout each phase, providing a sequential road from the beginning to the beginning.

The DBB methodology is distinguished by its uncomplicated, phase-by-phase progression, enabling project owners to assess designs and proposals completely before moving forward. In addition, this approach uses competitive bidding, which encourages contractors to provide their most competitive pricing. However, the distinct separation between the design and building stages might result in complications, such as delays or cost overruns, if changes occur during construction without an architect on board. Additionally, the process of defining the roles and duties of the design team and the general contractor is straightforward with industry-standard contracts. DBB continues to be a popular option for many people because of its well-known and organized strategy. This technique encourages owners to carefully match the particulars of their project with the advantages that each method in particular provides.

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Benefits and Drawbacks of Design-Bid-Build


  • Predictability: Design-bid-build projects follow a well-defined schedule from start to finish, which can be comforting for project owners who prefer a structured approach.
  • Budget Control: This method allows for more accurate budgeting. Since the design is completed before the bidding process begins, the scope of work is more evident, leading to more precise cost estimations.
  • Clear Selection Process: The bidding phase enables project owners to compare contractors based on their bids, qualifications, and experience. This transparency ensures the selection of the most suitable contractor for the job.
  • Well-Defined Roles and Responsibilities: In the DBB approach, each project phase is clearly delineated, with distinct roles for designers, contractors, and project owners. This separation of duties can lead to greater accountability as each party is responsible for specific aspects of the project, reducing overlaps and confusion over responsibilities.
  • Comprehensive Documentation and Oversight: The DBB process often results in thorough documentation, including detailed plans and specifications, since the design is fully completed before construction begins. This comprehensive documentation aids in quality control ensures compliance with the project requirements, and provides a clear framework for evaluation and oversight throughout the project lifecycle.


  • Inflexibility in Changes: Once the design is set and the construction bid accepted, changing the project scope or design can be cumbersome and expensive if you do not have architect supervision. The DBB process typically requires formal change orders, renegotiation, and a worst-case scenario of re-bidding to adapt to new requirements or innovations once the project is underway.
  • Potential for Conflict: With separate entities responsible for design and construction, there’s a higher risk of discrepancies and miscommunications. This division can lead to conflicts that affect the project’s smooth execution.

Understanding these pros and cons is crucial for project owners considering the design-bid-build method. It suits less complicated, predictable projects with strict budgets and flexible schedules, especially in the public sector. While it offers straightforward budgeting and transparency in contractor selection, it is essential to weigh these benefits against the method’s slower pace and the potential for increased conflicts and reduced flexibility. 


Picking the right approach means matching what your project needs with what each option offers, leading you to a solution that meets your goals. This decision involves taking a close look at the complexity of your project, figuring out your ideal timeline, and deciding how involved you want to be. It’s about understanding the challenges specific to your project, setting a realistic schedule to address these challenges, and defining your role throughout the project. 

Comparing design-bid-build vs design-build can significantly impact this decision-making process, as each methodology has distinct advantages and constraints that align differently depending on project requirements. By carefully considering these aspects, you can choose a method that fits your project’s objectives and boosts its chances for success, crafting a path customized for the best outcomes.


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Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal

After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle

As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.