Eight major studies of the construction industry, from the 1962 Emerson Report to the 1998 Egan Report, all highlighted the need for greater integration of building design and building production.Throughout this time, it has often been suggested that architects should have a better understanding of production issues.But is this fair?
Architects have many more production processes to deal with than their counterparts in the manufacturing industry.
This is because they are employed to produce a wider range of designs.Architects may be employed to design standard, custom, hybrid and/or bespoke buildings.
In contrast, product designers in the manufacturing industry tend to develop either standard and custom goods, such as cars, or bespoke and hybrid goods, such as ships. The table below provides an example of each building category.
Standard buildings, such as portable cabins, are fully designed once and reproduced. In contrast, with bespoke buildings, where even the materials to be used (right down to bricks and mortar), may not be chosen until after samples have been built on site for the client to inspect.
Hybrid buildings comprise standard areas with bespoke interfaces produced from loose parts and materials.For example, a supermarket chain will have many buildings designed with standard internal functional areas but different external sizes and finishes.
Custom buildings, such as McDonald's drive-thru restaurants, are designed so they can be constructed from a range of modular units that are configured differently to suit different locations.
Different production technologies are required to maximize construction productivity and quality for different types of buildings. For example, flow processes are best suited to high volume, standard and custom buildings and project processes are best suited to one-off bespoke and hybrid buildings.
Since the Egan Report, there have been efforts to improve construction productivity and quality using lean production. However, there are factors which limit the potential of this approach to bespoke and hybrid buildings.
In particular, architects have far less control over the design of building components than, for example, design engineers working for Toyota have over the design of car components. It is seldom technically feasible and economically viable for building component manufacturers to collaborate with architects in the development of mass produced, building-specific sub-assemblies and assemblies.
Instead, manufacturers tend to offer either a range of mass produced, standard and custom materials and parts or the capability to produce bespoke and hybrid sub-assemblies and assemblies.
The influence of architects over the design of standard materials and parts is limited. This means construction productivity and quality cannot be improved simply by architects learning how to design with lean production in mind.
In the manufacturing industry, it is recognised that designers cannot design effectively for production - as well as for form and function - without the support of formal design methodologies.
These design methodologies are documents which comprise design procedures in workbooks and production knowledge in manuals. They have been developed for designers mainly by production experts.
Production design methodologies provide designers with a guide book of production technology. They provide best practice guidelines; facilitate selection of materials and processes; and enable quantified evaluations of alternative product designs.Their use has radically improved productivity and quality in the manufacturing industry.
Also, the number and duration of design meetings discussing production issues can be cut down by using formal methodologies. They offer time savings, not another bureaucratic obstacle to doing design work.
Further, they do not result in a need for additional personnel or new job titles for existing personnel.
Designers simply refer to the methodology knowledge base to find out how their decisions are likely to affect production productivity and quality.
Then, if they wish to do so, they can follow methodology procedures to modify their designs and so improve production productivity and quality.
If construction productivity and quality is to be improved, architects have to be able to design with a comprehensive knowledge of production techniques for bespoke, hybrid, custom and standard buildings and building components. Further, architects need to understand how these different techniques interact.
It is unrealistic to expect designers to have this level of production knowledge. Consequently, building production design methodologies should be introduced for use by architects, consulting engineers, and designers of building components. It is the responsibility of production personnel to provide these for designers.
Stephen Fox is a freelance project manager.To contact him e-mail PTCottage@btinternet. com Graham Cockerham is Professor of Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University