The GIRI Design Guide:
advocating a robust approach to the design process

What is the purpose of the GIRI Design Guide?

Research by the Get It Right Initiative established that a significant proportion of the failings that lead to errors in construction are rooted in the project formation and design processes.

The GIRI Design Guide shares a series of good-practice recommendations to address these root causes and have a significant impact on the avoidance of error throughout the delivery of a project.

Why is it important to get design right first time?

We asked six experts to share their thoughts with us – watch our video to find out what they said.

Who is the GIRI Design Guide for?

The Design Guide is not just for those who carry out design; its recommendations have implications for everyone involved in the construction industry, from building and infrastructure clients to contractors and their supply chains.

All parties have a role to play in reducing design process error – whether that is in ensuring design information is correct and submitted to the relevant parties in a timely manner; in providing designers with the necessary resources to carry out their work effectively, or by simply establishing and supporting a culture that gives people the confidence to challenge things that could lead to errors.

Everyone will benefit from the guide in one way or another – it can serve as an introduction for those who are new to the industry, or have limited experience in commissioning, or as a reminder of best practice for those with many years of experience.

All parties gain a greater understanding of how the establishment of a cohesive, collaborative team can lead to improved project outcomes.The guide identifies the crucial benefits of early investment in design and promotes wider awareness of best-practice processes.

For architects and consulting engineers the Design Guide offers a reminder of best practice through all stages of a project, including the crucial design decisions that need to be made at the outset. They will also gain an understanding of the challenges faced by other parties in the project team. The guide provides a platform through which the crucial aspects of early stage engagement with the client, contractors and supply chain can be raised and discussed.

For clients, developers and asset owners, the guide sets out the key activities that need to be undertaken at the beginning of a project and the critical watchpoints through the design and construction process.

Contractors and subcontractors benefit from the guide as a means of demonstrating how early contractor involvement, and an emphasis on collaborative culture can improve project outcomes. For subcontractors with design responsibilities under a contractor’s design portion or similar, the guide offers a means of demonstrating how earlier involvement in design development reduces the risk of errors occurring later in the project.

Similarly for specialist supply-chain companies, the Design Guide offers a way of demonstrating how early involvement can reduce the risk of late changes, as procurement proceeds and alternatives are considered.

What does the guide recommend?

Key GIRI Design Guide recommendations are broken down into a number of themes; full details can be accessed by clicking on the titles or visiting the relevant page from the drop-down menu on the top right:

Robust approach

GIRI research established that many of the weaknesses in design which lead to errors in construction are rooted in a failure to properly define and agree the design process at the outset, as well as a failure to rigorously apply it throughout the project.

A clearly-defined and well-managed design process should be established at the start of a project with the involvement of all key members of the team. Having agreed the process, the team must then apply it rigorously.


Delivery of construction projects is improved, and the number of errors reduced, when the right working culture exists; one that encourages collaboration, adaptive behaviour, inclusivity, leadership and good communication.


Providing sufficient resources – not just fees but also time – to do the design properly is crucial. Early investment in design will more than repay itself by eliminating errors that could create problems later in the project.


A collaborative working environment establishes a teamwork approach to getting things right, and is inextricably linked to culture. Team members do their best to help others to fulfil their responsibilities, and are open about areas where they themselves need help.

Planning the design work

The project team should agree a framework for planning the design work and coordination of information, and the execution of the project should be developed on this basis. It is important to ensure that all parties are fully aware of the framework and its requirements.


A well-prepared brief minimises design changes, and so reduces the knock-on construction errors and the associated cost increases and delays.


Good quality, complete design information together with the clear communication of this information between all parties is an key part of any successful project.

Stakeholder management

Engaging with and managing all stakeholders is integral to the successful design and delivery of all projects.

Opening up and closing down

The concept of ‘opening up’ and ‘closing down’ a design enables all creative thinking and key decision-making to be completed in good time, ahead of production information being prepared, eliminating or at least minimising subsequent changes.

Contractor input

All projects benefit from tapping into a contractor’s knowledge of delivery, buildability and construction techniques before design options are closed down. As a minimum the client should appoint a suitable contractor or specialist on an informal basis to consult with as the design develops.

Design gateways

If a comprehensive set of information is produced, reviewed and communicated effectively at established gateways, then the design is less likely to be misinterpreted and the potential for errors reduced.

Guiding the design process

Adopting a structured approach for the design process, from start to finish of the project, greatly reduces the risk of design errors. An individual with the authority to make informed decisions based on and aligned with cost and programme considerations should be assigned to manage the process.

What is the Get It Right Initiative?

The Get It Right Initiative is a not-for-profit membership organisation that is using a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling avoidable error in the construction industry. GIRI’s early research identified the main types of errors, their causes, and their costs, so that effective methods could be developed to avoid errors and minimise their consequences.

Visit the GIRI website to find out more.

The GIRI Design Guide builds on the content of the original GIRI Guide to Improving Value by Reducing Design Error; the information in this website can be downloaded as a PDF via this link.


The GIRI Design Guide has received endorsement from the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors as best practice in driving the elimination of error. Find out more here.


We welcome feedback on this document and intend to review it on a regular basis to ensure it continues to be relevant, usable and accessible. Please use this form to submit any feedback.