Poor quality in construction projects is a huge problem. Analysis by GIRI (Get It Right Initiative, a group of industry experts, organisations and businesses dedicated to eliminating error and improving the UK construction industry) showed that:
1) The average construction project overruns its budget by 20% with worst case examples being 300-400%. In the UK this amounts to £20B+ per year.
2) Of the errors creating this cost and time overruns, over 50% can be traced back to the design stages of a project.
Note also that the associated re-work, creates health and safety risks up to 10 times as great as the original work. (Research results from the US and Australian academics)
Control of quality during the design phases of a project is crucial to minimise risk of project cost overruns and time slippages.
Deployment of the Quality in Construction Design tool summarised below can provide the competitive edge that clients and contractors need to maximise the returns to their businesses – reduce overruns and improve safety.
Hatching the design tool to manage risk.
The tool was developed between 2016 and 2020 by construction Quality experts from around the world, including a major UK infrastructure client, the CQI and quality representatives from US and Australian quality bodies. It was developed because although most projects measure the quality of projects during the delivery phase, very few had any metrics for controlling the overall design stages.
The authors considered that a tool that sets out best practice and measures degree of conformance to it would, if used properly, would go a long way to preventing construction design failures.
Typical design process on construction projects.
Construction design commonly occurs in two main stages: Concept design and Developed design (as defined by UK’s Royal Institute of British Architects; sometimes these are called the Options and Scheme design stages).
How is the ‘Quality in Construction Design Best Practice Tool’ implemented on a project?
The Tool should be used during the Concept Design and Developed Design stages of a project starting at the business case approval gateway phase. That is, a client/owner has decided that an idea should be explored and set aside the necessary funds to develop a more detailed proposal.
At the end of the Concept stage, there may be a Recommended Options Approval Gateway before the commencement of the Developed Design Stage. On lower risk projects, this may also include funding for the entire project.
At the end of the Developed Design Stage, it is likely that a more detailed cost and schedule would be used to seek approval for the funding of the entire project. After this (and not covered by this guidance Tool) the project would move to production design, delivery stages and then to handover and operations/maintenance.
The Best Practice Tool is simple and easy to use. The tool requires a project team meeting of key players that takes less than half a day per design stage to complete. Thus, it is low overhead and easy to deploy. The tool does not seek to instruct the project team on what it needs to do but instead highlights all risks to delivery so that plans can be made to minimise the risk of the delivery.
Quality in Design Tool was used with a few complimentary initiatives and played a key role responsible for a 5-year package of work being delivered with lower cost and timing overruns than had been possible in the prior period. Thus, it supported a reduction of delivery costs of up to £300M over the 5-year period.
It enables clients and project teams to measure better, control and monitor the quality of design in the early project stages - leading to significant cost avoidance, timely delivery, and enhanced reputations, all critical to overall project success.
The Tool has received strong support already. Senior professionals from the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), and the Get It Right Initiative; this will involve other major bodies such as Institute of Builders, Association of Design Management, Highways England, and Network Rail . GIRI are also going to seek clients to use the tool as early adopters. If successful, that will generate excellent feedback and data.
The North American ASQ’s Construction Division has endorsed the tool. Shirley Parsons Project Services have become experts in the use of this tool to reduce risk, and thus costs, on construction projects.