Design gateways

Design gateways

Passing the baton forward successfully


Failure to communicate design intent adequately to specialist designers, contractors and sub-contractors can have major consequences. If a comprehensive set of information is produced at each design gateway, and reviewed and communicated effectively, then the design is less likely to be misinterpreted and the potential for errors reduced.

Why is it important?

Even a minor error can have far-reaching consequences at a design gateway stage; whether the information that is being handed over is drawings, specifications, digital models or schedules, designers must ensure that it is both appropriate and correct.

Information is sometimes produced without proper consideration of the intended audience, and without any prior consultation. For example, a drawing to illustrate a design option to a client will not be the same as one for a worker on site.

There needs to be a common understanding within a team about what they are expected to deliver at each stage. Missing, withheld, hard-to-access or difficult-to-interpret information slows down design and delivery, as requests for information – or RFIs – are issued and replied to. This can, and frequently does, result in errors. One of the most valuable resources on a project is time, and wasting time is not only inefficient, it also has a knock-on impact on the programme.

For example, on a design and build contract, digital models are rarely a contractual deliverable and may not be handed over to the contractor, who will then have to recreate the same model from scratch.

There are several reasons why this might happen:

  • the consultant’s model does not always align with the specification. As specifications take precedence over drawings, the contractor may prefer to start again to ensure the model is correct
  • the consultant passes design duties on to the contractor, which requires changes to the design model
  • consultants’ designs are not coordinated across the various disciplines
  • tender designs that are issued for construction may not have been updated with changes that have come about during the negotiation period
  • the risk exchange at contractor appointment is such that the responsibility for the design that has already been completed requires an entirely contractor-created model

Any deficiencies are likely to prompt the issue of a series of RFIs. But by this time in the project, the design team has often been scaled down, or the design fee is depleted, so the time it takes to resolve the issues is further extended, and the opportunities for error increased.

What are the desired outcomes and how can you achieve them?

Ensure handover information is appropriate and accurate.

Great care must be taken at design gateways to ensure that the information being communicated is clear, accurate and appropriate for the intended audience.

Clarify responsibilities.

All parties must be clear on what they are expected to do at each design gateway. A project-specific plan of work for each discipline should be developed before any design commences.

Clarity and a shared understanding of the design responsibilities of the contractor, subcontractors and specialist designers can remove ambiguity. Gaps or duplication can create confusion and generate unnecessary effort. The use of standard forms, such as the BSRIA BG6 matrix for building services, goes some way to preventing such problems.

Design review workshop.

To ensure a successful handover at a design gateway, a design review workshop with those receiving the information, including the supply chain, can assist the effective ‘passing of the baton’. It can help to define any outstanding work to be undertaken by the designers to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to complete the duties stipulated.

Key goal

To ensure that appropriate design information is efficiently supplied in a clear form at each design gateway.

Practical steps

Practical stepPurposeFurther information
Be clear about the purpose of design information when it is issuedTo ensure that the information that is issued is suitable for the recipient.Information
Carefully and clearly define design responsibilities for all partiesTo reduce the chance of duplication or gaps in handover information.Planning the design work
Ensure that information is relevant, complete and comprehensiveTo eliminate errors caused by omission of necessary information, or inclusion of inaccurate or incorrect information.
Organise design reviews with specialist designers and subcontractorsTo enable an effective handover and identify any outstanding design work