Design best practice tool - where it all started

27 Oct 22

The UK construction industry is wasting £21 billion a year on avoidable error and a significant proportion of those errors arise during the design process, Helen Soulou, head of programme assurance at Houses of Parliament Restoration & Renewal, told attendees at a recent GIRI webinar. 

Helen’s was the first of three presentations at the webinar that collectively outlined the origins, development and use of the Quality in Construction Design Best Practice Tool and how it can benefit teams and projects. 

The tool started life at Heathrow when Helen was working in programme development. “My client programme director asked me how he could monitor the quality of the design and challenge the project team at the early and concept design stage to ensure the design being produced would result in a quality project.”

In search of an answer, Helen organised multi-discipline workshops and invited the project team to find a solution. “We involved people from the quality side, the project managers, and members of the design team – at that point it was Atkins and Arup Jacobs – and our cost and controls consultant, Turner & Townsend. One of our conclusions was that if we know the key steps and activities in the concept and design development stages and we record these, we will know what we should be doing to achieve a robust design. We can then check ourselves against these steps and understand whether we are doing what we said we were going to do. If not, we can identify actions to take.”

Helen and her team created a smart checklist looking at the different element and activities in the concept and developed design stages and a method of recording comments and actions. They also created an escalation route. “This gave us a way of going into the programme and project team meetings and escalating issues to ensure we got the support we needed to get things right.”

The self-assessment tool was used on various projects at Heathrow as part of the project review process. It was linked with project reporting and, ultimately, programme reporting, as it enabled the team to look at programme-level risks and mitigations or opportunities. “With my current knowledge, and now working in assurance, I believe this tool could also be used as part of a toolkit for assurance reviews as it can provide an independent view of the health of the design process.”

Download the Quality in Construction Design Best Practice Tool

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