Optimising the Design Process

At the beginning of a project, a Client engages a design team to develop a solution that will meet their needs and aspirations. In doing so the Client is committing a significant sum of money and trusting that the designers will make the best use of the project budget, site and timeframe to create a stunning solution; a sentiment reflected by the design team. The Client makes this commitment without full knowledge of what they will get, in the sense that there will be varying levels of certainty in how it will function, or what it will look like. This reality can also pose a risk to the design team, as they work through numerous options to develop a solution that meets the Client’s aspirations.

The key to managing this risk is by implementing appropriate measures that optimise the design process. Effective Design Management will increase confidence that both the design team and Client will optimise the opportunity at hand. Outlined below are a few measures which can assist across the design process from start to finish:

Design Competitions

1) Paid and unpaid competitions are used to test the waters and see potential solutions prior to committing. A point of caution is that the CGI’s Architects are often required to produce, may not be as thoroughly tested as they appear. The risk being that the Client ‘purchases’ a vision that is not as achievable as it originally seemed – whether from a financial perspective or a functional/operational standpoint. Competitions are a fine measure, as long as the team are aware of the level of interrogation behind the CGI’s, and the likely changes ahead.

Track Record

2) Prior to appointing, a Client should have a good feel for the Architect’s experience through prior projects, but also an understanding of how they have previously addressed Client’s aspirations to maximise site and budget. This can be (and is often) scrutinised and addressed throughout PQQ and ITT stages.

Design Brief and associated feasibility studies

3) A robust and tested document that clearly outlines the functional, spatial and financial requirements of the building is essential from the start. The design team’s engagement in the production of this document is vital. Set the goalpost’s clearly early on, and obtain buy in from the design team to get the most out of their time and skill.

Understanding & maximising each design stage

4) Time is limited for all parties involved. Design teams need to structure the design programme to ensure adequate and timely periods are provided for design and Client reviews. Design programming can be interrogated prior to appointment through the PQQ and ITT stages to understand how the design team and client will utilise the time available.

5) An integrated client / design team working process will manage priorities and ensure Client satisfaction as the design develops. Clear procedures must be established and implemented from day 1 to ensure that the design team doesn’t work for twice as long as forecast, and that Client satisfaction is guaranteed.

Effective Design Management will address the points mentioned above in a way that benefits the project team as a whole. At Plan A we work closely with the Architect to establish team structures, procedures and protocols, that maximise results for all parties. Each project is unique and requires tailored measures that address project constraints to minimise potential for disruption. We are always working and looking for ways to improve the design process and are always open to hearing new thoughts.

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