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New and improving D&B

CI/Sfb (A1) In the year since we last reported on the Design Build Foundation, it has been shifting from talking shop to focus on how to change the industry

In the early 1990s D&B (Design & Build) peaked as a procurement method, with around 23 per cent of new-build work by value (only 3 per cent of repair and maintenance). This was discovered during a major study of clients and their projects by Reading University for the Design Build Foundation, Designing and Building a World Class Industry*.

The report also showed that D&B was slightly better than traditional procurement routes at delivering projects on time and budget. However, quality targets were a little lower for D&B - yet even so, they were less frequently met. Standing back from these results, no procurement method led reliably enough to consistent time, cost and quality control. Clients were saying there was a lot of under-performance.

Within D&B, the study found it worked best when contractors were involved from an early stage, worst with novation. And contractors were generally not very good at managing the design process.

The Foundation The Design Build Foundation was then a mixed grouping of 27 organisations - since expanded to around 50 - mainly clients, consultants, contractors and manufacturers. Architectural practices include BDP, epr architects, FaulknerBrowns, Foster and Partners, Parr Partnership, Percy Thomas Partnership and Richard Rogers Partnership (see box overleaf ).

In the introduction to the study Norman Foster said, ‘The image which design-build conjures up is of the worst possible building, low in quality and of little or no architectural merit, the only priority being the bottom-line cost. The image is the opposite of what I believe the process of design-build should be delivering. Basically, the best design skills should be combined with the best of construction, acting in the client’s interests to produce a product of shared value for the community and the users … Ideally those concerned with construction - particularly the specialists - should be involved from the earliest stages of the project.’

At one stage there was talk of moving from the name Design & Build so as to make a radical start away from the shadow of this poor reputation. Though this did not happen, the Foundation’s intentions are both to go back to first principles of D&B and forward in finding ways to improve and spread it.

The Foundation sets out two central principles for the new, improved D&B:

the principle of providing the client with a single point of responsibility. So goodbye to novation, with its mid-contract shifting of relationships with the client. Management methods offering only a single point of contact are not enough. Conflicts within the industry should not be visited on the client D&B must be design-led. Meaning, broadly, a service focused on meeting the clients’ needs, including their choice of quality standards, providing value for money not necessarily least cost.

The box below gives more details of the Foundation’s overall approach.

Affirmation of principle is not seen as enough. Foundation activist Jim Isaf from Heery International says, ‘The Foundation is not a talking shop like the Construction Clients Foundation or the Construction Industry Board.’ He sees the Foundation as being there to change the industry. It has taken upon itself the role of developing methods and demonstrations for what renewed D&B can achieve and how it can be spread. It originally set out areas where action is needed:

understanding and promoting the formation of alliances of consultants, contractors and others within the industry prepared to offer the client a single point of responsibility publishing best-practice case studies setting standards for D&B practice and developing a registration system for competent practitioners providing clients with advice on procurement developing educational courses.

Finding the problems The broad approach was set out in the report and underlay the possible formation of a professional Design Build Institute (AJ 6.3.97). Originally called a Forum, more recently a Foundation, it has incorporated and appointed a director general, Barry Holmes, whose background is in engineering manufacture rather than construction.

In a recent conversation between Holmes, Graham Robinson from Reading University and Jim Isaf, some of the earlier certainties of what is needed have been tempered by greater pragmatism.

Further investigation has revealed how difficult is the task they have set themselves - understanding the shifting trading environment, identifying roadblocks to change, developing tools, changing hearts and minds. Some 90 points for action have been parcelled up for working groups to develop. The following points indicate some of the current shifts in the Foundation’s approach.

Despite having clients and funders as members, such as John Lewis Partnership, M&S, Tesco and Slough Estates (see box) a series of workshops is planned to look more closely at the variety of industry customers, addressing issues such as:

- where clients gain early strategic advice - how they would select D&B teams - how clients would like to initiate the building-buying process - what would encourage and help them to make a decision - how clients would like to see information about construction service suppliers presented - how technical standards and price information could be communicated to clients.

The original report had as one 10year object ive that D&B would be ‘firmly established as the natural route for building work’. Jim Isaf questions whether a specific D&B contract is the ultimate aim, or whether D&B skills and approaches would sometimes be enough without a specific D&B contract.

The earlier approach focused on ‘alliances’ of consultants, contractors and others as major D&B venture teams providing the single point of responsibility. They would become well enough established and high enough profile to be seen as brands in the construction marketplace. The study report had ambitiously instanced Virgin and British Airways as brand examples in other sectors.

Forming strong alliances was seen as justified in part by the growth of procurement methods where the D&B team takes a financial stake in the project, such as PFI, BOOT (Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) and DBFO (Design, Build, Finance, Operate). These methods, the report forecast, will account for five per cent of the new-build construction market by 2001.

The view of alliances is now more diverse, ranging from alliances of lowcommitment, low-integration for individual projects to highly integrated strategic alliances.

The Foundation has remained a foundation rather than becoming a professional institute with the formality and qualifications that implies. There is, however, still the commitment to some form of register of good practitioners, covering both competence and solvency.

Ideas into act ion One idea being taken up from more advanced industrial sectors is the mantra of continuous improvement. The construction industry is not very strong on doing this systematically, learning from experience. For example, we spend little on research. We rarely revisit buildings.

We know relatively little about how buildings contribute to the business/operational effectiveness of client organisations. One task area is to develop tools for doing this.

Other practices sought from other industries include supply chain management - the integration of suppliers’ and subcontractors’ working practices and business processes with that of main contractors. It has been effective not only in the car industry but also in projectbased sectors such as aerospace and shipbuilding. It does not exist in construction, though a major project may have 200 suppliers. Management tools are needed.

Many other tools are needed too, arising for example from the issues to be explored in the workshops noted above, such as how to work with multi-headed client organisations. It is a familiar issue from the health and education building sectors but not one formalised into readily accessible techniques. Many of these potential Foundation outputs could be used with benefit in any procurement method.

It is felt that some of the standards of practice in other industries need taking on board too. Clients are often aware of higher standards elsewhere even if the construction industry is not. Which is one reason we have seen clients increasingly trying to drive change in the industry. BAA is the best-known example, but it is not alone. John Carpenter of John Lewis Partnership is chairman of the Design Build Foundation. So clients’ expectations can be very high - looking for the promise of zero defects, for example.

And there are ways the industry could respond. What would happen for example, Isaf asks, if instead of a sixmonth defects liability period the industry were responsible for providing a building and running it for the first five years? Would that not both change our approach away from minimising first cost and encourage us in seriously accumulating data on how buildings perform in practice? Why should the industry not offer its customers insurance-backed guarantees of well-performing buildings?

The Foundation has picked out nine projects from the original survey as case studies to look at why they succeeded.

This is part of a broader plan to develop measures and benchmarks of best practice, to provide a blueprint for D&B processes and techniques. The members of the Foundation are expected to be instrumental in this in future, with live projects being used as test beds. With $3 billion per year of new-build work between them, they are a significant presence.

Looking further ahead, Holmes says, ‘It could take five years to re-engineer what design and build is about.’ Isaf believes that growth of the sort of clientcentred, ‘can-do’ approach the Foundation is fostering will leave some behind and thus there is likely to be a significant shake-out in the industry in future.

If some of the initial simpler strategies have been tempered by uncovering the complexity of what is involved, the ambitions remain.

* Designing and Building a World Class Industry. John Bennett, Ellen Pothecary and Graham Robinson. Centre for Strategic Studies in Construction, University of Reading, tel 0118 931 8190. 1966. 92pp. £49.95.

For the Design Build Foundation, contact Barry Holmes, tel: 0118 931 8190

THE FOUNDATION’S APPROACH

Client Focused and Design Led. Creating excellent value for the customer. Recognising the importance of design. Improving design performance through a real understanding of client and team member needs. Seeking innovative solutions Simple and Efficient. Clear, uncomplicated relationships between customers and suppliers . Short and effective communication routes through the entire design, supply and construction team . Single, focused, industry/client interface Performance Guaranteed. Customer satisfaction, without question, from a single point of responsibility . Establishing and meeting performance standards. A ‘seamless’ approach to problem solving. Open and honest issue-resolution and changeaccommodation Mutually Rewarding. Enjoyable, friendly, long-term relationships. Working together, sharing opportunities, problems and successes. Valuing the contribution of others, and helping to lighten their load. Profitable for everyone Quality Driven . Achieving agreed standards. Continuously improving processes and services . Aiming to exceed the needs and expectations of other team members Ethical. Fairness and honesty throughout . Sharing expertise and knowledge for common good. Equitable sharing of risk and reward. Honouring promised delivery and payment terms . Striving to use and to deliver environmentally sound and sustainable products

DESIGN BUILD FOUNDATION MEMBERS

AMEC Design and Build Applied Solutions Group Arlington Securities Arnold Project Services At las Ward St ruc tures AYH Partnership Bovis Construction BTProperty Bucknall Group Building Design Partnership Cameron McKenna Cyril Sweett & Partners Davis Langdon & Everest Drake & Skull Engineering Edge and Ellison epr architects FaulknerBrowns Foster and Par tners Gibb Gleeds HBG Construction Heery Internat iona l Hewetson Flooring High Point Rendel Hoare Lea & Partners John Laing John Lewis Partnership Kier Group Kvaerner Construction Marks & Spencer Matthew Hall MoD, Defence Estate Organisation N G Bailey & Co The Parr Par tnership Protocoll Richard Rogers Partnership Roy Paramour Associates Shepherd Design & Build Shimizu (UK) Slough Estates Swift Structures Tarmac Construction Services Taylor Woodrow Construction Tesco Stores Thomas Partnership Trent Concrete Turner & Townsend The University of Reading Waterman Partnership Wates Group

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