Last edited 16 Dec 2015

Gateways in building design and construction projects

As design and construction projects progress from inception through design and construction to completion and operation, it is crucial that the client retains control of the brief, the direction of development and costs.

Typically this is done by the introduction of key decision points, or gateways, at which the client assesses the state of development of the project and considers; whether it satisfies their strategic objectives, that it is affordable, that value is being delivered, and that risks are acceptable. They can then decide whether to progress to the next stage. If such a process is not introduced, there is a tendency for projects to gradually wander off course, with programme, budget and brief diverging.

There are a great number of different stages that gateways can be introduced, depending on the nature of the project, the practices of the client and the procurement route. A comparison of some standard stage definitions can be found in: Comparison of work stages.

Allowing the client to make decision about whether to proceed at gateways requires the preparation and submission of relevant information by the consultant team and contractors. As the project develops, this might include:

It is important that appointment documents include a requirement for the project team members to prepare this information, and allocate responsibility for its co-ordination and compilation.

Consultants and contractors should not be permitted to proceed to the next stage until relevant information has been submitted and a decision made. It is important therefore that time is allowed within the project programme for the decision makers to be provided with relevant information, to assess it, discuss it and make a decision. This might involve meetings amongst senior members of the client team which might only be possible at specific dates. This decision making process should therefore be carefully planned and should not appear on a programme as a simple milestone with no sensible time allocation.

Decisions may involve expert assessment and advice from client representatives, independent client advisers, project managers, or even external bodies (such as external design reviews).

It is possible that the client will decide not to proceed, or will ask for further work to be carried out, whether this is revision of the design, or undertaking value management exercises to re-align proposals with the available budget. Value management is a team-based approach used to define the client's objectives and ensure that best value, whole-life solutions are selected to satisfy those objectives.

Decisions to proceed may be accompanied by the introduction of change control procedures, freezing certain aspects of the project. This ensures that approved aspects of the project are not changed without the express permission of the client. Changes to a project may have impacts on time, cost or quality. Broadly, the later in the development of a project that changes occur, the greater those impacts are likely to be.

Examples of the introduction of change control procedures might include:

See change control for more information.

With the introduction of building information modelling, the submission of material at gateways (sometimes referred to as employer's decision points) may also include data drops to ensure building information models are properly validated and controlled as they develop. Data is extracted from the evolving model and submitted to the client to ensure it reflects the level of detail that the project should have reached by that stage. The client will also check the data in terms of technical compliance, compliance with the brief, cost, and so on (the government also suggests ‘carbon’). See data drops for more information.

The OGC Gateway Review process offers a structure for publicly-funded projects, based around a series of independent peer reviews carried out at key stages to verify that projects should be allowed to progress to the next stage. These peer reviews, or 'gateway reviews' are commissioned on a confidential basis by the Senior Responsible Owner and are defined as:

The OGC process sets out in detail the issues that the client should consider at each gateway. See OGC for more information.

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