GIRI Design Guide Preview: Investing in design

1 Aug 22

Early investment in design can eliminate errors later in the process. Insufficient investment at this stage will increase out-turn costs and can result in adverse technical outcomes, greater costs, and even legal disputes. GIRI’s revised Design Guide highlights the central role that design plays in project success and discusses how to reduce error by appropriate investment of time and fees at this early stage.

Reducing error by investing in design is one of GIRI’s key recommendations, based on our research showing that 21% of project cost is wasted on error and that five of the top ten root causes of error relate to design. 

Design is the foundation of every component that will be incorporated into the final product. A huge web of interrelated design issues contributes to the overall design of a scheme, so a failure in the design of any component can have a major impact. 

The following steps can help guide investment of time and fees in the design process to reduce the occurrence of error.

Avoid late changes

Late design changes are a fundamental root cause of error, according to GIRI research. These usually occur either because of errors in the design, changes in the design approach, or a change in the client’s requirements. However, with sufficient early investment, the likelihood of such issues is significantly reduced.

However, changes during the development of the design are part of an iterative process. Designers must be given adequate resources for effective design development to ensure designs are buildable ahead of procurement, otherwise the risk of error in the construction process increases. 

Design development versus design change must be managed robustly by the authorised design management individual. 

Do not allow design errors to go uncorrected

Allowing a design error to go uncorrected may eliminate direct costs, but it can inflate costs elsewhere, impact the performance of the scheme, or even lead to a serious failure. Always correct design errors when they occur to minimise additional costs and delays elsewhere on the project.

Invest at the right stage

Invest time and fees at the early stages to get the design correct before construction starts, maximise the return on investment and avoid design-related errors creating large additional costs at a later stage.

Create and implement a design appointment strategy

Prepare a design appointment strategy to ensure all parties are clear on the scope of the design and all necessary appointments are made. Relevant design consultants and specialist suppliers should be consulted/appointed at the early stages to enable designs to be developed sufficiently. 

The multiplier effect

Increasing investment in design more than pays for itself by reducing the cost of error. For example, if 15% of project costs are spent on design and the cost of error on the same project is 21%, a significant proportion of this cost can be traced back to decisions made at the design stage.

If investment in design increases by just 10% – up to 16.5% of total project cost – and this reduces the cost of error by 10% – or 2.1% of the total cost – the additional investment has already paid for itself. However, in reality, the reduction in error would probably be much greater, producing a return several times the level of the initial investment. This is the multiplier effect.

A more detailed exploration of investing in design 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.

Other previews

The briefing process



Contractor input

Planning the design work


Design gateways

Guiding the design process

Stakeholder management

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