Design Framework updated to reflect the new RIBA Plan of Work

MEP deliverables during old and new Plans of Work

MEP deliverables during old and new Plans of Work

BSRIA’s highly regarded Design Framework guidance has just been published in its fourth edition as BG 06/2014. This version brings the guide up to date in its reference to the latest RIBA Plan of Work. This article summarises some of the key changes that have been made to Design Framework in this latest edition.

Design Framework now aligns with the new project stages, designated 0 to 7 rather than A to L, that were developed as part of the Government’s BIM Task Group work. These stages are more explicit in their support of collaborative working amongst the project team and place more emphasis on handover from construction to operation and on the in use phase. In addition, there is now a new Strategy stage, Stage 0, deliberately to give clients and portfolio managers the chance to consider the proposed project in the wider context of their whole built estate.

Many of the new stages align to old stages, or pairs of old stages. For example Stage 1 maps to the old Stages A and B, Stage 2 covers the old Stage C, and Stage 5 is the equivalent of the old Stages J and K. But there is a significant disconnect between the end of new Stage 3 and old Stage E. Stage 3 is expected to conclude with agreement between the main design disciplines about the volumes allocated to each designer such that these provide feasible system boundaries. The idea for this is that once these volumes are agreed, each discipline can go away and work up its detailed design more or less in isolation. Provided they stay within the boundaries of their agreed volume then all should be well when it comes to spatial co-ordination.

These changes to the overall structure of the Plan of Work have meant changes to the design activities listed in the BSRIA BG 06 pro-formas, and also some changes to the stage deliverables. As can be seen from the table, the first formal deliverables under the new Plan of Work regime have been brought forward to an earlier stage than previously. In BG 06 the exemplar 3-d models to illustrate the new end-of-stage deliverables have been updated and isometrics included. For the Stage 3 deliverable, the 2-d drawing exemplar has also been amended.

A final area of confusion is the way some stage names have changed, and this again has the biggest impact around Stages 3 and 4 in comparison with the old Stages D, E and F. Stage D used to be Design Development, Stage E was Technical Design and Stage F was Production Information. In the new scheme, Stage 3 is Developed Design and Stage 4 is Technical Design.

The new project stages will take some getting used to – BSRIA has presented a webinar on the changes and this can be accessed from the Webinars page on the BSRIA website.

BG 06/2014 – Design Framework for Building Services is now available in hardcopy, PDF, single license or multi-site license.

Integrated working – is it the right time again?

For those of us who remember back to the early 1990s, the current drive of the Government’s construction strategy to get better value from construction by reforming procurement may seem like a case of history repeating itself (see The Latham Report “Constructing the Team”, 1994).

What is interesting to note is that both reports followed severe recessions in the construction sector which had themselves followed relatively long periods of growth in construction output. Of course this might be no more than coincidence, or it may be an attempt to embed some much-needed structural changes at a time when the industry is experiencing a buyer’s market, so that when times improve there is less tendency for the industry to revert to type.

I welcome the kinds of change that are now mooted: involving suppliers at the time they can add value to a project, which generally means earlier than usual; clients focusing on specifying output performance and designers/contractors working together to develop integrated solutions; supply chains engaged on serial orders that will encourage research and innovation.

We need more fundamental changes

I believe, however, that this will need a wider set of more fundamental changes to be put in place than just exhorting traditionally separate disciplines to work together. There are a number of hidden drivers that I suspect will also have to be tackled for this change to be effective.

These include the fragmentary nature of the client, the underlying power of the finance and insurance industries, and the tendency to think short-term.

A fragmented client comes from devolution of budgets, which itself promotes budgetary responsibility, but which also means that more organisations become occasional clients and don’t have the chance to develop the skills to deal with a sophisticated and confusing industry.

Finance and insurance underpin many of the choices made by developers and designers in terms of the technical standards they build into their schemes – no landlord wants to be left holding a difficult-to-let office block because the permitted floor loadings are outside the norm, irrespective of whether this capacity is ever needed. Manufacturers may feel the need to offer warranties to give their customers a safety net – difficult to achieve when a technology is new and may be favoured from an energy efficiency point of view.

Short term thinking is natural, but is often the enemy of good decision-making. It drives lower capital expenditure at the expense of higher operational costs. This may come from governments not seeing beyond the next election, or officials not seeing beyond their current posting, or organisations behaving as though they were not going to be around for more than a few years. Which is all understandable, but not really defensible. We have tools to help make good, long-term decisions – such as life-cycle costing – all we need to do is not be afraid to use them.

Integrated working for all supporting stakeholders

In my view, the desire for more integrated working must not be restricted to the primary members of the construction industry, but must also extend to all the supporting stakeholders and really engage with the operators and maintainers of buildings and infrastructure – a distinction which is unnecessarily perpetuated by the separation of CAPEX and OPEX budgets inside client organisations.

So, is it the right time for integrated working?

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