Launch of the new GIRI Design Guide

24 Nov 22
Launch of the new GIRI Design Guide

Today, we launched the new GIRI Design Guide. This is a best-practice document intended to instil in all parties an understanding of the importance of taking a robust approach to the design process. Why have we done this? Because our research indicates that this is where many of the most costly errors in construction projects have their roots.

Setting up and effectively managing the design process is critical to project success, and that’s what the Design Guide is intended to do - it outlines a series of recommendations for delivering projects with the minimum of error. 

It's important to emphasise that this is not simply a guide for design companies – we believe everyone involved in construction needs a better understanding of how to manage the process successfully.

The key term here is ‘process’, because that’s what design is. What’s more it is a complex process, one that involves not just the individuals we typically think of as designers – the architect or the engineer – but a multitude of different stakeholders. It starts with the client, and it takes in the consultants, contractors, commercial roles, and, increasingly, subcontractors and supply chain specialists, who all have a role to play in bringing the design and the project to a successful conclusion.

So, to say that the root cause of errors is in the design process is not to say that designers are always responsible for those errors. 

The complexity of the design process is one of the main reasons GIRI’s Design Guide focuses on providing guidance and structure to the early phases, to ensure that those who need to be involved are brought on board at the right time and at the right level, and that communication is open, honest, and efficient. 

As part of our campaign to raise awareness of these issues, we invited six leading experts to share their thoughts on the design process and the importance of the robust approach that we advocate. 

The aim of the GIRI Design Guide is to eliminate the costly misunderstandings that can lead to mistakes being built in at the start of the process, resulting in delays and additional costs as the project progresses. Considering that the UK industry currently wastes up to £21 billion a year on avoidable error, that benefits everyone.

Much of the guide is devoted to recommendations that aim to give those involved in design the time, space, and resources to do it properly. The idea of investing appropriately in the early stages is addressed again and again, but this is not just about money. Design is iterative. It needs the conceptual space to unfold and resolve – opening up and closing down – and ideally it also needs input from contractors as early as possible. 

More than anything, good design needs a solid, well-researched brief that captures the client’s aspirations and can be understood by all. However, while these aspirations should guide the design process, it is incumbent on designers to draw out and interrogate the client’s wishes, ensuring they are realistic and clear. It is a two-way process.

As Jenny McLaughlin says in our video, the client is the first step in the design journey, and much of our Design Guide is aimed at helping clients – in particular those who may not have prior experience of construction – understand how their behaviour can influence the success of a project.

Effective communication plays a huge part in this. At our recent members’ meeting, we heard from several speakers about the consequences of poor communication in construction projects. Many happened in the very first stages – for example, a failure to properly articulate client requirements or to thoroughly analyse the information provided. The results ranged from expensive delays to completed builds that simply weren’t what the client wanted. No matter how efficiently or well a project is built, it fails if it doesn’t meet the client’s needs.

Early collaboration goes a long way to eliminating such misunderstandings – but while collaboration is a widely-used term, as a practice it isn’t employed anywhere near enough. It is one of the key themes of the Design Guide, along with the culture and behaviours that flow from it. Collaborative working encourages all parties to focus on the success of the project as a whole not just their own part of it. And, logically, this joined-up approach is much more likely to deliver a satisfactory outcome.

Ultimately it is about relationships. A transparent, open and honest design process that involves all relevant stakeholders working together for a mutual aim sets the tone for the project – it drives the kind of collaborative culture that distinguishes the highest performing projects. Relationships shouldn’t be adversarial; when it comes to project success, we are all in this together. This guide is about laying the groundwork for those types of relationships and for the kind of working environment in which errors can be spotted early and resolved without blame.

The GIRI Design Guide recommendations also benefit the commercial side of the business. Not only do projects that adopt best practice have demonstrably better outcomes, but such practices also deliver greater certainty and better value, and that is what everyone is looking for – especially at a time when certainty is hard to come by.

The bottom line is that eliminating error benefits everyone, and everyone has a role to play in getting it right. The recommendations in the GIRI Design Guide can help you achieve this by implementing a robust approach to the design process from the outset.

View the Design Guide.

Cliff Smith, executive director, GIRI

Gavin Pike, associate director, Bennetts Associates and GIRI board member.

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