GIRI Design Guide Preview: Guiding the design process

23 Aug 22

Adopting a structured approach for the design process, from start to finish of the project, greatly reduces the risk of design errors. GIRI’s revised Design Guide explains why an individual or team with the authority to make informed decisions should be identified and assigned to manage the design process.

Design is typically an iterative process involving a range of communication processes - verbal, written, digital or illustrative. While they may be clear to the communicator, they are often open to misinterpretation, and the greater the number of participants or interfaces, the more complex a process becomes and the more likely that misinterpretation will occur, leading to flawed decisions. 

It is therefore essential that design decisions are clear, transparent and well-considered. Design decisions must be validated and omissions must be addressed and coordinated. The introduction of a structured design management plan, overseen by a named individual or team of people with the authority necessary to ensure it is followed, is a key step for any project. 

This role should not be confused with the lead designer. The lead designer is responsible for controlling the design and maintaining design quality. Changing roles, increases in complexity and the number of parties involved, and the widespread adoption of design and build contracts means the lead designer is not always able to exercise clear overall responsibility throughout the whole process. An alternative approach supports the team at the early project stages and helps reduce design issues that could lead to errors. 

Introduction of a design management plan
Develop a structured design management approach for design development to reduce the number of design errors and mitigate their consequences at the early design stages. This approach, typically via a design management plan for larger or more complicated projects, can ensure that design-related information and communications are robust, coordinated, and controlled. It also identifies gateways or milestones beyond which the design cannot proceed until all appropriate checks have been made and decisions have been resolved. 

At the briefing stage the design management plan typically includes a design responsibility matrix, definitions of specific gateways and milestones, a gateway programme, and a brief. The plan should also assign clear accountability to ensure the right communications have occurred and been understood, assumptions have been resolved, and that there are no gaps. This should reduce a very significant risk.

Appointing someone to manage the design 
Appoint an individual or team to oversee the design management process and ensure the design management plan is properly applied.

On complex or sizeable projects, make this appointment at the outset. It is critical that the individual has the requisite design management skills and experience to undertake the role and should ideally have the authority to make informed decisions based on and aligned with cost and programme considerations.

Reassess the design manager role when the main contractor is appointed
Initially a consultant may be appointed to take on the role, with responsibility assigned to the main contractor later in the process. Reassessing the appointment when the main contractor is appointed will ensure the appropriate person or team is in place for that stage, and that they have the necessary authority and confidence of the other parties. 

Verify designs at each stage
Checking that designs meet the requirement of a particular stage or that designers have fulfilled their duties as described in their scope of services will prevent changes during the construction phase. 

This structured approach to managing the design process will reduce project risks associated with design error, leading to the potential for lower preliminary costs at the construction tender stage.

A more detailed discussion of how to gudie the design process is available in the revised GIRI Design Guide, which will be published later this year. Sign up to our newsletter to be notified once the guide is published.



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