Last edited 24 Apr 2018

Buildability in construction

Buildability is a pre-construction exercise that assesses designs from the perspective of those that will manufacture, install components and carry out the construction works. It should not be confused with value engineering (which is used to solve problems and identify and eliminate unwanted costs) though some processes are common to both activities.

In very broad terms, buildability should assess elements of the design in relation to:

It involves careful study and consideration of:

  • The sequence of activities that will take place on and off site, taking into account the state of the building and its weatherproof environment at any time.
  • Dimensional criteria, setting out and space allowances.
  • Use of plant and equipment to save labour and time and prevent possible damage.
  • Practicality, flexibility and tolerances.
  • Standardisation of components and processes.
  • Reduction in complexity to shorten learning curves.
  • Identification of appropriate suppliers.
  • Prefabrication opportunities.
  • Packaging the works and allocation of scope in relation to trade and specialist contracts.
  • Ease and order of interface connections and abutments.
  • Installation and maintenance access arrangements including long-term replacement.
  • Health and safety.
  • Temporary works such as propping, facade retention, retaining facilities and trench support, crane supports, formwork, falsework and scaffolding including gantries.
  • Susceptibility to damage and protective procedures in-transit and in-situ.
  • Weight and lifting requirements.
  • Unloading operations.
  • Spare parts.
  • Storage and waste management.

Advances in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) as well as the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) are immensely helpful in visualising many aspects of buildability. However, the availability of technology does not remove the need for engaging practitioners who have hard-won experience and awareness of on-site practicalities and potential pitfalls.

The contractor is often best placed to advise on issues of buildability, and some procurement methods, such as construction management, management contracting and design and build allow early appointment of the contractor to offer advice and feedback on design proposals as they develop.

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