Last week I published an article; ‘how can clients ensure their projects meet their expectations?’ In this week's article I would like to focus on the role of the designers. Here I include architects, engineers of various disciplines, landscape architects, interior designers, etc. In some cases the architect or engineer may also be appointed as the client’s principle agent which may require them to fulfil an overall project management role, but, I’ll focus on this in my next article.
What can designers do to ensure the successful outcome of their projects?
I’m sure we have all been on construction projects where drawings have arrived late, changes have been made to completed work which then required rework and projects that have been difficult and expensive to construct because the design hasn’t taken cognisance of the local conditions. We have probably also seen grandiose projects which have been inappropriate to the client’s needs and brief. Often this is a result of a poor or weak design team.
So how can designers assist to ensure projects successfully achieve their outcomes?
- Designers need to ensure they understand the client’s brief or scope of work. This should be clearly articulated in the contract document. Sometimes, the client themselves don’t fully understand what they want, so it’s important designers ensure that they and the client are both on the same page with common project expectations.
- Designers should understand the client’s budget, ensuring their design fits the budget, or where necessary, advising the client that their budget is insufficient to achieve what they want. In some cases clients need to modify their expectations. Designs that exceed the client’s budget may not be built due to lack of finance or result in the client having a finished project that exceeds their budget causing them pain and unhappiness.
- Designers need to learn to say no. This may mean saying no to a project that’s not suited to their capabilities, saying no to client’s design requests which aren’t appropriate or aren’t achievable, and also saying no to the client’s late changes that will delay the project or add additional costs. It may even mean advising clients to delay the start of construction to allow the design to be developed sufficiently. How many projects start construction too early – resulting in the contractor standing idle waiting for information?
- Their price for the design must be sufficient to cover their full design costs. Often designers under quote a project to win it, then towards the end of the project when they have used all their budgeted hours they reduce the team and remove key people. This causes the final construction information to be issued late and being of a poor quality.
- The design should go through full review stages to ensure it meets the client’s brief, it satisfies all codes and specifications and that it’s constructible.
- Designers must ensure the client is fully aware of what services they have been contracted to do. Clients should be advised when there are possible shortfalls covering aspects of the project such as quality control or project management.
- Information must be issued in a timely manner so the contractor isn’t delayed. Requesting an information required schedule from the contractor is a good way to monitor this. Timely issue of information needs to allow for the client’s review processes.
- Designers need to implement a quality system to ensure that their drawings issued to the contractor are accurate with all the necessary information for them to construct that section of works.
- The design team needs to be responsive to the contractor’s requests for information. Time is of the essence on construction projects and delays in answering questions can negatively impact both the schedule and the project costs.
- Designs need to take cognisance of the available skills, resources and materials in the project area. Materials and resources that have to be procured from distant locations can impact the project cost and schedule.
- Designers should take cognisance of the lifecycle of the project. This would include durability, maintenance, life cycle costs, the client’s operational needs, the client’s operational skills, operational safety and future needs. Some designs don’t take cognisance of future operations and maintenance.
- Designers need to ensure that their design integrates with and takes cognisance of other designer’s drawings and information. How often do contractors have to cut holes in finished concrete to allow for pipe and cable penetrations (not shown on concrete drawings), required by electrical and mechanical designs?
- Designs need to be constructible. Early liaising with contractors will assist. This could be as simple as selecting column sizes that suit standard available formwork.
- Designers must advise and ensure the client carries out suitable investigations at the start of the project, such as ground investigations which could impact foundation designs.
- Designers need to ensure their design is compatible with the local design codes as well as the client’s own specifications. This is particularly important when clients outsource portions of the design to design offices in other countries.
- The design team need to promptly advise the client when they believe that changes to the design will add to the overall project costs or construction time.
- Designers should enter into a construction project in a spirit of collaboration with the client, other designers and the main contractor. Egos or personal agendas should be left behind.
A well briefed and coordinated design team with the right skills can be invaluable to the success of a construction project. Having a substantially completed design available before construction starts usually allows the client to develop a more accurate budget, get more accurate pricing from contractors and results in fewer delays during construction.
To read further on this topic visit: Improving construction productivity with Dr. George F. Jergeas
For other similar articles by the author read:
In construction it’s important to know your clients.
Do your construction materials meet specification and are you installers competent?
Will your construction project be completed on schedule?
(Written by Paul Netscher the author of the acclaimed books ‘Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide’ and ‘Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide’. Both books are available in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other retail outlets. This article includes information from a third book which will be published later this year. To see how Paul can help you visit: Construction Management Services)
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