DESIGN IS NOT LINEAR BUT PROGRESS CAN BE MEASURED
Misunderstanding of the design process can lead to friction with the client and among members of the project team. But 'design webs', used by the Richard Rogers Partnership and Heneghan Peng Architects among others to break design down into its constituent parts, can help teams work more collaboratively and achieve greater success.
We operate in an industry which places huge demands on all participants, and it is clear that a far better result is achieved if we work jointly and cooperatively. Unfortunately, most of the time the opposite is true and much effort is expended protecting our own interests, battling with other members of the design team and trying to justify our own position.
Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than in the design process, where I am always amazed by how little understanding exists among the project team. There are still many people who believe that designing is the production of drawings and that progress of the design can be monitored by counting the number of drawings completed. It is also widely believed that the process of design can be related to the construction programme and sequencing. The relationship between the design process and the construction sequence is similar to that of two interlocking cogs of different sizes and spacing attempting to turn at the same speed.
Designers rarely design a building in elements that remotely resemble how a contractor procures his subcontractors or suppliers: doors, tiles, paint, metalwork, etc. Designers tend to design in areas: back of house, front of house, special areas, etc.
This lack of understanding and the resultant pressure exerted on the design team - in particular the architect, upon whom all others rely - is a cause of constant tension, leading to disputes, arguments and a culture of blame.
The process of design - especially with the modern industry's demand for higher quality, faster completion, sustainable solutions and value for money - requires a different approach to management, integration and monitoring of the design. This is exacerbated by the increasing trend towards treating the architect as a technical contractor and demanding greater scope from him.
We have, over the last few years, noticed a move towards the appointment of architects to deliver the complete design, with the aim of achieving a single point of design responsibility. The consequence of this is that the architect appoints the engineers, quantity surveyors and specialists as his or her subconsultants and thus accepts responsibility and management of all these.
If an architect is appointed as a 'one-stop shop', is novated to a Design and Build contractor, or is part of a PFI group, he has to accept responsibility for managing the design process, and it is here that things become messy. Architects in this situation are often forced to adopt traditional methods and to use inappropriate tools to carry out that function, all the time being led by the construction programme. I suggest that there are alternative methods of design management out there which could help the whole process to run more smoothly, leading to better understanding and less friction among the design team.
Design is not a linear process that can be related directly to time or quantity. It is, in fact, a rather random process, one that considers the requirements of a brief and achieves a building design by actioning a number of tasks aligned to aesthetic decisions and functionality. These tasks can be real or conceptual, but the good news is that they are not infinite - they can be identified, monitored and reported.
For this reason I consider Gantt charts, which illustrate the project schedule in bar form, to be an unsuitable way to plan, measure and report design when used as a single tool. I prefer the use of 'design webs', which have been developed by Davis Langdon Schumann Smith specifically for this purpose. By breaking design down into its constituent parts, and regularly checking the status of these parts, an accurate visual picture can be built up showing what has and has not been achieved (see above).
Design can be broken down into the simplest and most minimal of tasks. Each project is different and, as such, any number of webs can be used to reflect particular project requests and design issues. The result is clarity, accuracy and relevance. The information gained is related to the growth chart master programme. In this way problems can be identified easily and actioned accordingly.
Our experience of working closely with design teams has led to the development of a specialist design project-management service specifically tailored to suit the needs of the architect.
Managing the design process to ensure that deliverables are issued on time and meet the expectations of the client is essential to the successful completion of any design project. We have found that focusing on the following core issues can significantly influence project success:
? ensure that all parties have a sound understanding of their responsibilities and when they should be carried out. When an architect is responsible for the performance and management of other consultants it is important that back-to-back sub-contracts are in place to minimise risk and ensure that all scope is covered;
? adequately manage the client's expectations at the commencement of each design stage, so that it is clear what will be delivered and carried out. Remember that detail and level of information should be tailored - not all clients' teams will have technical experience; and ? enforce a clear design-team protocol from an early stage, focusing on communications, information exchange, formatting of deliverables and design methodology.
Allocating time to the organisation and planning of the design process at design commencement can prove a significant factor in helping the architect to work more efficiently and achieve their goals more successfully.
Nick Schumann is a partner of Davis Langdon Schumann Smith IN-DEPTH STATUS OF TWO CONSTITUENT PARTS PERCENTAGE CURTAIN WALL 9 Visual concept 25 Performance of skin 10 Integration of MEP services 10 Sustainability integration 10 What clads the atrium? 10 Security criteria 10 Blast criteria 25 Acoustic criteria 0 Appointment of curtain-wall consultant 10 Wall sections 10 Determine materials 10 Produce materials schedule 0 Talk to manufacturers 0 Proprietary or custom? 10 ROOF 45 Visual concept 35 What equipment is on the roof? 80 How will the roof be clad? 10 Is there a roof terrace? 100 Material selection 10 Produce typical sections 10