16 Tips for Owners and Developers in Managing Design for a Successful Outcome – Business Case Stage

This brief article outlines 16 Tips for the Business Case Stage of the design process, the first of 7 stages in the design process. The Design Management role is considered in the context of an in-house or consultant Owner or Developer side Design Manager and is also on the basis of a fully documented Design and Construct only contract.

Design Management seeks to establish project management practices that are primarily focused on enhancing the design process. For Building projects the successful implementation of Design Management throughout the entire Project Life Cycle can represent the difference between the success and failure of a building project.

Owners and Developers can achieve superior outcomes for their Building projects if they can ensure that the project is effectively managed such that their requirements are fully incorporated into the project and that the process yields the required outcomes in terms of Quality, Timing, Cost and Value.

The conventional approach to the management of the design is through the project management process whereby the Design Management is simply considered as a component of the project management process, with design project managed in terms delivery to a programme schedule and cost plan. The management of the design itself is generally left to the designers with the lead consultant, typically the architect, taking control of the coordination process.

The design of a building is in fact such a critical component of the overall project management process that it needs dedicated management to achieve the best results for Owners and Developers. This Design Management needs to be implemented from the start of the Project Life Cycle and then throughout all the critical stages.

The Design Management overall responsibility should rest within the Owner or Developer’s Project Management team and not the Design team itself. The Design team will need to manage its own in-house design from technical perspective and undertake coordination as required however all under the careful supervision of the Owner or Developer’s Design Manager.

Business Case Stage- Design Report

Early involvement by a Design Manager to the Project Life Cycle is critical. The output from the Design Manager for the Business Case stage will be a Design Report that will directly feed into the Owner’s or Developer’s overall project Business Case.

The following are 16 Tips for the Owner or Developer during the Business Case Stage of the design process:

Tip # 1: Nominate the Owner’s or Developer’s Design Manger. The Design Manager is responsible for delivering the design that meets the Owner’s or Developer’s requirements and achieves desired outcomes.

Tip # 2: Collate all available data on the project including Client Briefs, concept drawings, surveys, and planning conditions. This helps identify design related information to develop the project’s design requirements.

Tip # 3: Establish criteria to determine the project’s viability from a design perspective. Make this a collaborative effort involving all relevant stakeholders.

Tip # 4: Determine and define the project’s functional requirements. This identifies as much as possible the Owner’s or Developer’s requirements to be included in the project.

Tip # 5: Assess all available design information to identify any crucial gaps. Further design related researching and data gathering can then be done to better inform the Business Case.

Tip # 6: Visit and become familiar with the proposed site or sites being considered. It provides a real world perspective of how the project sits within the existing environments and a context regarding surrounding influences.

Tip # 7: Identify viable options to consider from a design perspective in developing the Business Case. The Owner or Developer can then review options in terms of project timing, site location, cost, value, and sustainability.

Tip # 8: Engage design consultants as needed for required technical and project inputs in preparing the design report. Such input enhances the Business Case if more technical detail or assessment is required.

Tip # 9: Determine design risks and provide an assessment of these risks. This helps inform the Business Case and identifies areas of concern from a design perspective.

Tip # 10: Select the most appropriate consultants required to deliver the project design. Assess costs and the timing to engage the design team. Doing this informs the expected design cost in the Business Case and identifies the list of likely consultants to seek for proposals.

Tip # 11: Prepare the Consultant Agreements. Include scope of services and design roles regarding coordination, program, deliverables, and contract conditions. This ensures all the design consultants work to consistent and well defined requirements.

Tip # 12: Establish the Design Team Project Organisation Chart. It defines the responsibilities of the various design consultants among the design team itself and identifies the project reporting and communication structure.

Tip # 13: Consider constructability, sustainability, programming, environmental, and other stakeholder requirements. This high level assessment at this stage further informs the Business Case.

Tip # 14: Prepare a Business Case design report draft to review with the Owner or Developer. It provides the opportunity to review all design related issues considered to date and incorporates any comments before finalising the report.

Tip # 15: Organise and present the final Design Report component of the Business Case to the Owner or Developer. As part of the overall Business Case, the design input to the Business Case is now completed.

Tip # 16: Obtain formal approval of the Business Case from the Owner or Developer. The approval is the basis for developing the Outline Design.

These tips are the result of over 32 years of experience in managing design. With a solid technical background as a structural engineer, owner of an Architectural and Engineering (A&E) practice and having worked in Australia, Asia and the Middle East on a wide range of small to “mega” projects, Paul Sancandi is now a Senior Design Manager consulting in Australia.