Lessons learned report for building design and construction
A lessons learned report (sometimes referred to as an ‘assessment and lessons learned report’ or ‘lessons identified report’) is an assessment of lessons that can be learned from a project that could be applied to other projects. This is particularly useful to clients who are regular developers and may run a continuous improvement programme, and may be a requirement of some funding organisations.
A lessons learned report may be prepared as part of a post project review, undertaken during the defects liability period. The purpose of a post project review is to look at the effectiveness and efficiency of the project delivery process. The lessons learned report focuses more specifically on how things could be done differently in the future.
It might identify:
- Mistakes that could be avoided in the future.
- Successful strategies that might be adopted in the future.
- Procedures or resources that could be improved.
It may be prepared by an in-house team, by members of the consultant team or by independent client advisers. If such services were not a requirement of original appointments then new appointments or re-appointments may be necessary.
Ideally, the requirement for a lessons learned report should be included in tender documentation so that members of the project team are contractually obliged to provide the necessary information and input to the report. They may be required to provide information as the project progresses (such as key performance indicators, which might require information from sub-contractors) or to maintain up to date lessons learned logs.
It is important to agree:
- The purpose of the report (who is it for and how they will use it).
- The scope of the study required.
- The reporting procedures and timescale for the study.
- The stakeholders that will be involved.
- The techniques that will be used.
- The information that is available.
The report might include an assessment of the project, or simply focus on the lessons that can be carried forward. Assessments may be both qualitative (based on research, interviews and workshops) and quantitative (such as key performance indicators or benchmarking assessments).
Qualitative assessments could include:
- Cost vs budget.
- Project progress relative to milestones.
- Number of complaints.
- Number of incidents / accidents.
- Number of working hours spent on different aspects of the works.
- Use of materials.
- Number of defects.
- Number of disputes.
- Amount of waste generated.
- Amount of recycling.
- The number of variations.
However, it is important that it does not simply become a time-consuming paper exercise. Nor should it be a PR exercise - an opportunity to pat each other on the back and claim every aspect of the project was successful. Only genuinely important aspects of the project should be assessed, and only viable and worthwhile lessons proposed for adoption.
The report might include:
- Executive summary.
- Background – including the wider context of other projects that the report will feed into, and details of any abnormal characteristics or events.
- Detailed assessment of different stages or aspects of the project.
- Things that can be taken forward to other projects.
- Things that can be changed on the project being assessed.
Aspects of the project that might be assessed could include:
- The quality of briefing documents.
- The effectiveness of communications.
- The performance of the various members of the project team.
- Quality issues.
- Technical issues.
- Health and safety.
- Claims and disputes.
- Collaborative practices.
For each lesson, the report might describe:
- What went wrong / right.
- Why it went wrong / right.
- Seriousness, ie is it worth avoiding / replicating in the future.
- If so, how can this be done.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Defects liability period.
- Earned value analysis.
- End of contract report.
- Extended aftercare.
- Key performance indicators.
- Initial aftercare.
- Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology soft landings project.
- Performance in use.
- Post occupancy evaluation.
- Post project review.
- Soft landings.
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