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Last edited 27 Jul 2021
What is design?
In very general terms, design is the realisation of a concept, idea or theory into a drawing, plan, specification, model, and so on that ultimately allows a series objectives to be achieved or resolved.
The design process must rationalise different and sometimes contradictory requirements of aesthetics, the brief, budget, structure, regulations, climate, weather, security, privacy and so on, to create a unified whole. This can be overlaid by the adoption of design principles such as; balance, unity, movement, emphasis, contrast, space, alignment, and so on. For more information, see Design principles.
However, it is remarkably difficult to describe what the building design process actually is. Whilst it is relatively easy to explain it from a contractual and technical perspective, as a series of stages through which the level of detail increases, and it is comparatively straight forward to describe the output of design in terms of drawings, styles, typologies, or components, the creative process itself remains elusive. For more information see: Design methodology.
Building design is typically a multi-disciplinary process, involving a number of different designers, such as architects, engineers, and so on, working together to create a single, holistic solution. It is the process of taking a client's requirements and translating them into an agreed design that a contractor is then able to construct.
However, the increasing complexity of building design means that there is an ever greater need for further specialist design input. Increasingly this is achieved by the integration of contractors, suppliers and specialist designers into the project team. The client may wish to allocate the roles of lead designer and to co-ordinate the work of the design team.
For such a range of designers to work effectively as a team they may need to adopt collaborative practices early in the project, and a requirement to adopt such practices may be included in their appointment documents. For more information see: Collaborative practices.
Design coordination is a broad term describing the integration of designs prepared by different members of the project team to create a single, unified set of information that can be constructed without clashes between components. Effective design coordination can help to reduce costs, delays and disruption that can be caused by problems on site and the need for remedial or abortive works and redesign. For more information see: Design coordination.
- 0 - Strategic definition.
- 1 - Preparation and brief.
- 2 - Concept design.
- 3 - Developed design.
- 4 - Technical design.
- 5 - Construction.
- 6 - Handover and close out.
- 7 - In use.
Design starts at stage 2 - Concept design. Drawings may be prepared for investigative purposes during stages 0 and 1, but these are not generally considered to be designs, as there is no agreed brief. The concept design represents the design team's initial response to the project brief. For more information see: Concept design.
Concept design is followed by developed design, or 'detailed design', during which all the main components of the building are described, along with how they fit together. By the end of this process, the design should be dimensionally correct and co-ordinated. For more information see: Developed design.
Technical design refers to project activities that take place after the 'developed design' has been completed, but before the construction contract is tendered or construction begins. Increasingly however, technical design may continue through the preparation of production information and tender documentation and even during construction itself, particularly where aspects of the technical design are undertaken by specialist subcontractors. For more information see: Technical design.
It is important that regular reviews are carried out during the design process to ensure that the developing design properly reflects the client's requirements and that the design and budget do not diverge. Design reviews are typically co-ordinated by the lead designer. They may involve the wider consultant team, the client, independent client advisers and where there is one, the contractor. They may also involve external organisations who specialise in undertaking design reviews.
Design management (DM) is the process of managing design through the project lifecycle, in order that project budgets can be satisfied, programmes achieved, and designs properly co-ordinated and communicated. Problems often 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. For more information see: Design management.
Physical models may also be prepared to help investigate spatial relationships between elements of the design and to help communicate the design to stakeholders who may not be used to interpreting drawings. For more information see: Model.
The term computer aided design (CAD) refers to the use of computers to create graphical representations of physical objects to assist in the design process. For more information see: Computer aided design.
Building information modelling (BIM) involves creating and managing digital information for the design, construction and operation of built assets. BIM can help ensure that collaborative practices are adopted and standard methods and procedures used and that designers are contractually obliged to provide specific information at specific stages of a project. For more information, see BIM.
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