Collaborative practices for building design and construction
In 1994 the Latham Report (Constructing the Team) investigated the perceived problems with the construction industry describing it as 'ineffective', 'adversarial', 'fragmented' and 'incapable of delivering for its customers', proposing that there should be greater partnering and teamwork.
This message was reinforced by the Egan Report in 1998; Rethinking Construction and the Government Construction Strategy in 2011, which made a similar, somewhat damning assessment of the industry, suggesting amongst many criticisms that:
- The UK does not get full value from public sector construction.
- There is broad consensus, spread both across the industry and its customers, that construction under-performs.
- (There are) poor and inconsistent procurement practices… leading to waste and inefficiency…..
- (There are) low levels of standardisation, and fragmentation of the public sector client base.
 The importance of collaboration
Establishing collaborative practices is of particular importance on building design and construction projects, as they are likely to involve bringing together large number of diverse disciplines, many of whom will not have worked together before. They are also likely to involve the co-ordination and integration of a great deal of complex information, procedures and systems.
Failure to establish clear and efficient project-wide collaborative practices can be disastrous.
This has become increasingly true as project structures have evolved from straight-forward client - consultant - contractor relationships to more integrated structures with complex financing arrangements, early engagement of the supply chain and the introduction of sub-contractor and supplier design.
 Working practices
It is important to establish the broad principles of collaborative practice as early as possible in a project, even if some specific details are left unresolved until later stages.
A decision to adopt a collaborative approach should be taken at the outset by the client (perhaps with advice from independent client advisers) so that a requirement to follow appropriate procedures can be included in appointment documents and can be a consideration in the selection of procurement route, form of contract and preparation of tender documentation. The implementation of collaborative practices should then be discussed in detail during consultant team start-up meetings, specialist contractor start-up meetings and pre-contract meetings.
The Government Construction Strategy recommends that public projects adopt design and build, private finance initiative or prime-type contract procurement routes, as these are considered to be more collaborative. They also suggest adoption of the NEC3 form of contract which they believe encourages collaboration more effectively than some other more traditional contracts which can be seen as adversarial.
Other forms of collaborative procurement include partnering (sometimes referred to as alliancing), which is a broad term used to describe a management approach that encourages openness and trust between the parties to a contract. The parties become dependant on one another for success and this requires a change in culture, attitude and procedures throughout the supply chain. It is most commonly used on large, long-term or high risk contracts. Where a partnering relationship is for a specific project, it is known as 'project partnering'. Where it is a multi-project relationship it is known as 'strategic partnering'.
Partnering contracts are often arranged on a cost-reimbursable, target-cost, open-book basis including both incentives, and penalties. Partnering agreements include the project partnering contract PPC2000, the term partnering contract TPC2005, the NEC partnering agreement and the ICE Partnering Addendum. See Partnering form more information.
Organisational working practices that encourage collaboration might include:
- Clear lines of communication and authority.
- Protocols for the preparation and dissemination of information.
- Co-location of team members.
- Financial motivation (such as tying the consultant team and the contractor into a common target cost for which there is joint 'pain' or 'gain').
- Rewarding initiative. This can be particularly important for members of the client team, whose careers are likely to be assessed solely on the basis of their 'normal' activities, rather than their involvement in a project. Recognising the work they put into a project and rewarding them for this is important if they are to remain committed.
- Regular workshops and team meetings.
- Problem resolution procedures, which should be based on solutions not blame.
- Procedures to ensure continuous improvement. This might require continual benchmarking, target setting, assessment, feeding back and adaptation.
- Early warning procedures.
- Social activities.
 Roles and responsibilities
Clarity of responsibility and co-ordination can be improved by the appointment of:
- A project sponsor or client representative.
- Client champions for different aspects of the project.
- A project manager.
- A lead consultant.
- A lead designer.
- A design co-ordinator (for the co-ordination and integration of design prepared by specialist contractors).
- An information manager for computer aided design (CAD) or building information modelling (BIM).
In addition, the appointment of a construction manager or management contractor (or early appointment of a design and build contractor) can result in better integration of design and construction, as can the early involvement of specialist contractors or suppliers.This may have an impact on the fee profile for a project which will be more likely to be 'front-loaded', but should result in fewer problems as the project progresses.
 Information management
Ensuring that consultants sign up to the use of compatible systems and adopt agreed document and drawing standards will help facilitate collaboration.
Systems might include:
- Computer Aided Design (CAD).
- Building Information Modelling (BIM).
- Common document management systems.
- Common E document management systems (these can be in-house, or externally hosted, ie. a project extranet).
- Common data environment.
A consistent approach to software systems, versions, drawing standards and file formats are very important for design projects and will avoid duplicated effort and errors.
Drawing standards might include:
- Layering standards.
- Zoning strategy.
- Grid strategy.
- Origin and orientation.
- Naming protocols.
- Agreed standards for dimensions, abbreviations and symbols.
- Standard templates (for example drawing titles).
- Standard page sizes and scales.
- Distribution protocols.
- Change control procedures.
Standardisation procedures also apply to the production of other forms of project documentation. The creation of a document matrix outlining key documents that will be required in the development of the project, their format and distribution can be beneficial.
Establishing a common data environment (CDE), within which the creation of information such as drawings can be shared between the consultant team can improve efficiency, avoid duplication and enhance co-ordination. See Common Data Environment for more information.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is seen increasingly as a means of facilitating collaborative working. BIM is a very broad term that describes the the process of creating a digital model of a building.
The range of levels of this type of modelling are categorised as:
- Level 0: Unmanaged CAD.
- Level 1: Managed CAD in 2D or 3D.
- Level 2: Managed 3D environment with data attached, but created in separate discipline models.
- Level 3: Single, collaborative, online, project model with construction sequencing, cost and lifecycle management information.
In the UK, the Government Construction Strategy states that the '...Government will require fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016'. This represents a requirement for Level 2 BIM on public projects.
Fundamentally, the purpose of BIM is to ensure that appropriate information is created in a suitable format at the right time so that better decisions can be made throughout the design, construction and operation of built assets. It is not about creating a 3D model for its own sake, and it is not an add-on process. BIM is fundamental to the way a project is set up and run.
The move to a more collaborative way of working, and the adoption of BIM can require a significant change in culture. It can be useful to appoint a BIM champion to ensure the successful integration of BIM into the entire project team from the outset. This can also be true for individual companies, where a BIM champion can help encourage and facilitate the adoption of BIM.
See BIM for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki:
- Appointing consultants.
- BIM for dummies - an interview.
- Building information modelling (BIM).
- Can relationships in and between organisations make tangible differences to business performance?
- Change control procedures.
- Clash avoidance.
- Common data environment.
- Consultant team start-up meeting.
- Design coordination.
- Design team meeting.
- Document control.
- Egan Report.
- Framework agreement.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- Information manager.
- Integrated project team.
- Integrated supply team.
- Integrated systems.
- Knowledge management.
- Latham Report.
- Leadership styles.
- PPC 2000.
- Pre-contract meeting.
- Record keeping.
- Relationship management.
- Smart construction.
- Specialist contractor start-up meeting.
- Supply chain management.
- Team behavioural roles.
- Team management.
 External references
- OGC: Collaborative practices.
- OGC: Collaborative Procurement Documents.
- OGC - Achieving Excellence in Construction Procurement Guide: The integrated project team, team work and partnering.
- RICS Guidance Note Managing the design delivery: A guide to best practice, RICS 2008.
- BS1192:2007 Collaborative production of architectural, engineering and construction information: Code of practice.
Featured articles and news
A blueprint for the construction industry from Canada's west coast.
China's elaborate idea for a mass-transport system has been abandoned.
Read this article about the theories that characterise life in the hyperreal post-modern city.
Polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation and how it was tested.
"We can’t sustain low density suburbs, density isn't a choice, it's a necessity." - Read our interview with the award-winning social housing architect Peter Barber.
Conservation area designation can be crucial, but treatment of individual parks varies considerably.
ICE publish new NEC4 Design, Build and Operate contract.
Report states $2 trillion is needed over the next 10 years to fix American roads.
What is the client's strategic brief for construction projects?
Read the story behind the world's most iconic festival stage, Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage.
First ever BREEAM Communities innovation credit is claimed by Temple Farm Development.
Read the story of Ronan Point, another disastrous event which had profound consequences for the construction industry.
CIOB to help conservation specialists gain recognition for their expertise with launch of new Certification Scheme.
A brief introduction to Building Information Modelling - is it the future of construction?
What is ACM cladding, what is it used for, and is it banned?