Design management for construction projects
Design is the process of creating a solution to a project brief and then preparing instructions allowing that solution to be constructed.
In order that project budgets can be satisfied, programmes achieved, and designs properly co-ordinated and communicated, the design process needs to be planned and controlled. Problems can occur where there is missing information, poorly communicated information, inconsistencies between documentation, poor resource allocation, poor decision making due to inadequate information and so on.
These difficulties have become more prevalent as buildings have become more technical, the range of products and materials has increased, standards and regulations have become more strict, and there are a greater number of specialist designers, particularly in the early stages of the design process.
For more information, see Designers for buildings and other built assets.
Design management (DM) is the process of managing design through the project lifecycle.
At its most basic level, design can be seen as an iterative process, where, at each iteration, there are inputs, there is a design process and then there are outputs. At the end of each iteration the outputs are reviewed and then the process begins again. Typically this is structured by establishing a series of '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.
For more information, see Gateways.
This control process can be refined further by processes such as building information modelling (BIM). BIM identifies explicitly the decisions and information deliverables required at each stage of the project. This ensures that appropriate information is created and shared in a suitable format at the right time so that better decisions can be made.
Typically, one member of the design team is appointed as 'lead designer' to direct and co-ordinate other designers in the consultant team as well as any specialist designers that are appointed. The lead designer will often be the architect, however this is not necessarily the case and appointment documents for other consultants will generally offer provision for them the be nominated lead designer.
The role of lead designer might include:
- Co-ordinating site surveys.
- Co-ordinate the preparation of information for the project brief.
- Co-ordinating the preparation of designs and specifications.
- Integrating different aspects of the design and their interfaces into the overall design.
- Co-ordinating internal and external consultations and design reviews.
- Defining the form and content of design information to be prepared.
- Reporting to the client on design matters and seeking approvals.
- Co-ordinating the preparation of schedules of inspections, tests, mock ups and samples.
- Co-ordinating consultations, negotiations and submissions to planning authorities and other statutory and non-statutory authorities.
- Co-ordinating the preparation of tender documentation and reviewing submissions.
- Co-ordinating quality control systems.
- Co-ordinating the issue of production information to contractors and the review of designs prepared by contractors.
- Co-ordinating procedures for inspections, commissioning, testing and client training.
Team leadership is essential for ensuring the effective performance of the design team. Each team member will have their own strengths and weaknesses, specialist knowledge and experience. The way that the team works collaboratively and independently will influence the efficiency of the design process.
For more information, see Lead designer.
Other appointments might include:
- A design co-ordinator for the co-ordination and integration of design prepared by specialist contractors.
- A design manager (see below)
- An information manager for computer aided design (CAD) or building information modelling (BIM).
- A lead consultant who directs the work of the consultant team and is the main point of contact for communication between the client and the consultant team, other than on significant design issues where the lead designer may become the main point of contact.
- A project manager responsible for the day-to-day management of the overall project.
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. 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.
For more information, see Collaborative practices.
The design manager has an enabling and co-ordinating role, but is not acting as a designer themselves. The role should not be confused with the lead designer, who heads the decision making and co-ordination of the actual design, or with the lead consultant, who directs the work of the entire consultant team.
The main tasks of the design manager are to:
- Establish a platform for good communication and collaboration between relevant parties and thereby an effective flow of design and production information.
- De-risk design problems by finding solutions before they materialise.
- Contribute to planning and co-ordination in a way that adds value to the processes.
- Prepare, manage and secure all-party ownership of an integrated design programme.
This requires a great deal of experience, and it is important that design managers are good forward planners, capable of managing project timescales, and with the requisite knowledge for ensuring the design process is in accordance with current legislation, standards and codes of practice.
For more information, see Design manager.
A design management plan can be used to co-ordinate design activities, and might include:
- A design responsibility matrix.
- Schedules of drawings and other information to be produced by each discipline/specialist.
- A design programme.
- Standard methods and procedures.
- Estimates of staff hours to be spent by designers on each element or drawing.
- Change control procedures.
- Monitoring and reporting procedures.
For more information, see Design management plan.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Anthropometrics in architectural design.
- Building design.
- Building technology.
- Business administration.
- Code of practice for project management.
- Contractors designed portion.
- Design and build.
- Design coordination.
- Design liability.
- Design management plan.
- Design manager.
- Design methodology.
- Design responsibility matrix.
- Lead designer.
- Lead consultant.
- Management contract.
- Project managers.
- Specialist designers.
 External references
- Project Resource - What is a design manager in the construction industry?
- Adept Management - Design management PDF
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