In a world where many Clients require the Architect to take full contractual responsibility on projects (therefore requiring the Architect to appoint a team of Engineers and Specialists and take responsibility for the delivery of that team), I have witnessed demand for what I do increase. That is supporting Architects with the added management responsibilities and contractual burdens that come with this demanding role and responsibility.
Over the past 10 years, I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the best and biggest Architectural firms in the world, leading world-class design teams on world-class international projects. However, no matter how big or small the practice or project, knowing where you are in the design process and identifying where your problems lie is absolutely fundamental to achieving a successful outcome, and in that, the monitoring of the design is key.
Monitoring Design – not a Gantt chart please….
The process of design is very different to that of building it. Design progress can not be plotted in a linear pattern, nor should it be measured by the number of intermediate drawings and reports submitted. In short, it is activity related as opposed to time related. The days have passed where architecture, structure and services work independently to one another and design progress is simply a case of counting drawings.
Architects are also very visual individuals. Having to decipher a bar chart to determine design progress is not something that designers want to be doing. It is because of this, where we found it a constant challenge to be able to schedule and monitor design team activities and progress accurately and meaningfully, that the ‘Design Web’ innovation was born.
Breaking the mould….
The idea behind the ‘Design Web’ aimed to revolutionise the way Architects monitor and report design effort and progress by using a method that was easy to understand and implement. So back in 2006, a colleague and I won the Davis Langdon award for innovation for the ‘Design Web’. Our reward was a substantial amount of air miles, for which I used my allocation to take my girlfriend at the time (and now wife – linked somehow?), business class to South Africa where we enjoyed a fantastic holiday and safari. Anyway, i digress….
So what is a Design Web?
A ‘Design Web’ is a very simple idea, using fairly simple techniques, but just used in a way which really adds benefits to our Clients. In essence, it is a very visual tool which allows us to take a snapshot of the entire design at any time in the project life-cycle – which is particularly useful when trying to articulate progress to the architect’s clients. It is something which is used to ensure that all the various pieces of the design jigsaw are being progressed and if not, instantly see where the problems or blockages lie.
The ‘Design Web’ captures design tasks necessary in any given period and is processed and weighted accordingly to present it in simple graphical and visual form at which can be easily understood by all. A picture tells a thousand words….
The ‘Design Webs’ are used by design teams to assess progress and target effort and resources in the right areas to produce a fully integrated and coordinated design. It enables everyone to clearly see where problems lie and where the team is progressing well. They work on the basis that the web represents the design phase. Work begins in the centre of the web, and progress then ‘grows’ from the centre towards the outer edge which represents 100% completion.
The end of the Gantt Chart…?
Of course not. There is always a need to plot the design stages and key milestones in a linear way in a bar chart form. Everyone needs some form of plan of how to get to the end goal with time in mind. However, thinking that you can plot design on one of these charts to then draw a line down it to reflect the current progress just does not work and is totally inaccurate.
My advice, keep the Gantt charts detailed enough to be useful by plotting key milestone dates, key decision dates etc, but don’t use them to try to gauge design progress unless you want your Architect to put the design programme straight into the drawer and never looked at again.