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The Latham and Egan reports challenge the professions to change their approach and share a commitment to integrated working Meetings of minds BY PETER BURBERRY

When the present pattern of design specialisation in building became established in the mid-nineteenth century, construction methods and building services were much simpler than they are today. In general, the architectural concept came first and the specialists worked within this framework. Fees for each profession were determined by the cost of building work. Very satisfactory results could be obtained.

There is now a greater range of technical possibilities and a greater understanding of the ways in which the form, fabric and the installations of a building interact together to determine a building's performance. There are also far more opportunities for failure. Integration of design and a new fee structure are needed.

The Latham and Egan reports have concentrated many minds in the construction industry. Although their main thrust is in other areas, both reports call attention to the importance of design. Latham says: 'There must be integration of the work of designers and specialists,' and 'The involvement of the consulting building services engineer/designer in the initial design process is essential.' Egan says that designers should work in close collaboration with other participants in the project process. (However, neither report proposes how this change could be achieved.)

Two recent events make important contributions to the development of an integrated design methodology. The cibse guide Energy Efficiency in Buildings shows that a multi-disciplinary design team should be set up prior to the conceptual stages of design. It also clarifies the decisions required (see review, p60).

Papers presented recently at the ice describe the approach to design which was made for the GlaxoWellcome Medicines Research Centre (aj 24.8.95). The ice papers gave details of how the design was approached and, in particular, how the professional contributions were integrated. While the project was completed before the Latham report, it anticipated and in several aspects goes beyond it.

GlaxoWellcome had discovered that the procurement system it used in the us was more effective in producing economical and efficient buildings than conventional uk systems. It therefore established an approach to the design of its new uk research centre taking advantage of the us experience. The system involved the establishment of a three-part design and management organisation to supervise the project. This comprised a client team from GlaxoWellcome, including facilities management expertise, a design team including all the professional disciplines, and a construction management team including safety and quality.

They had a collective responsibility to administer the project in a spirit of collaboration and common purpose. The managers had joint responsibility. No mutual blame was permitted. Any differences had to be resolved. A similar approach was required from the groups which formed the main teams. Many of the causes of disputes and litigation so common in the uk were thus precluded.

The progress of design was truly multi-disciplinary. All the professions were located together to ensure ease of communication. The design was not passed down the conventional professional line for progressive amplification. All the professions, including cost consultants, had the opportunity and responsibility to contribute creatively at each stage to the progressive development.

The scale of the project and its division into several separate design teams and buildings imposed some disciplines on design. Completion of various stages had to be co-ordinated. Economy dictated that, where common features existed, advantage should be taken by developing standard solutions.

The final result was a building which fully met the client's needs, was handed over on time and within the allocated budget. The safety record was exemplary; there were no fatalities despite the scale and complexities of the work. The quality of the laboratory accommodation is of a high order and likely to attract scientists to work there.

Changing normal practice

The inevitable question left after the ice presentations was whether this system could be applied more widely to smaller projects with much more limited resources for design. In later conversations, Richard Haryott and Iain Lyall of Ove Arup were very positive that the system could and should be applied, subject to a number of conditions:

the client or project manager must understand the iterative nature of the design process and distinguish it from the purely progressive process of construction

the design should be fully developed before going to tender, as it was at Glaxo. They emphasised the difficulties which almost inevitably arise when the design has not been fully considered and detailed. The time spent will be amply repaid by a straightforward construction process they stressed the importance of explaining the aims of the design to the builder

when changes to the design are proposed, either before or after going to tender, the consequences must be rigorously explored before the changes are incorporated.

Peter Burberry is emeritus professor of building engineering at umist

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