Planning the design work

Planning the design work

Creating and agreeing a project-specific plan of design work


GIRI research has highlighted the fact that misunderstandings and misaligned expectations about the scope of services can lead to shortfalls both in design and in coordination of information.

This is likely to impact all phases of the project and often results in errors that create re-work, waste, delays and increased costs.

Why is it important?

Clarifying roles and responsibilities has become increasingly important as the number of specialist designers and contractors taking on management roles has risen, and the supply chain has become more engaged in the design process.

Different consultants may be appointed to work on different parts of the design or at different RIBA stages (for buildings), and every part and phase should be designed to deliver the best outcome for the project as a whole.

GIRI research found that the information provided to competing design teams varies considerably: while some project enquiries offer considerable detail, others have very little on which to base fee proposals.

Priced submissions can vary significantly; the fact that staff costs, training, overheads, operating efficiencies and profit margins are broadly comparable between firms of the same design discipline, suggests that the variance in fee comes from the level of service or quality/completeness of design deliverables. Therefore, clarity at this stage is essential.

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

Provide comprehensive and unambiguous information at an early stage

For any construction project the following information should ideally be made available at the beginning of the project

  • A short description of the scheme, to include its objectives/purpose/use, the client outline brief, the anticipated scope based on financial viability, budget, known constraints and anticipated procurement route
  • An outline programme of the works showing design stages and construction phase duration
  • A draft design responsibility matrix (DRM), which sets out the relationship between each design discipline and the responsibility of each designer, and the design interfaces between designer and specialist sub-contractor designer/installer.
  • Proposed appointment terms.
  • A coordinated scope of services document, to include the duties at each stage of the project for each design discipline; the expected level of design by each design discipline; the deliverables and details expected at each design stage milestone; and the format of the design deliverables including CAD and BIM requirements. This document should be made available to all design disciplines at an early stage so that these relationships are understood at the outset.

Set out design responsibilities and roles

Ideally the above information would be readily available, and in part defined with contributions from the design team, but this is unrealistic on most projects. What is essential is that the design team is aligned by a coordinated design responsibility matrix and project-specific plan of work. This is why it is crucial to prepare a project-specific plan of work, which includes scope and deliverables by specialist designers and supply-chain members and, most importantly, is agreed by all parties.

For building services engineering, the BSRIA BG6 document provides exemplar deliverable drawings for each project stage but this is not the case with RIBA and ICE.

It is also vital that a relevant person is assigned to manage the design process at each stage.

Key goal

Establish and agree a project-specific plan of work for design, and set out roles and responsibilities across all disciplines before any appointments are made.

Practical steps

Practical stepPurposeFurther information
Create a comprehensive and project-specific plan of work for design across all disciplines. Key consultants should be involved in developing this, and it should also set out any design responsibilities of supply-chain members.To eliminate misunderstandings, highlight interfaces, and clarify design responsibilities at all stages of the project.
Ensure the brief is well-defined and responds to the requirementsTo ensure that any project-specific conditions have been given full consideration.Brief Stakeholder management
Make sure that project enquiries always contain comprehensive and unambiguous information as set out above.To ensure fee proposals from consultants are directly comparable, and that they reflect the level of service required.Information
Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all designers and contractors in a scope of services document, which should be distributed to all designers at the outset.To eliminate any duplication or omissions in the services priced for and supplied.
Create and agree a design responsibility matrixTo ensure all parties are clear on their responsibilities and have confirmed their understanding.
Introduce pre-project commencement workshops on site between senior representatives.To identify and resolve any potential issues.Culture Collaboration
Produce an outline project programmeTo aid resourcing and fee calculations and to encourage feedback on whether timescales are achievableInvesting in design
Assign an individual to manage the design processTo ensure the process of design is monitored effectivelyInvesting in design