Reforming construction is a must, and designers have a vital part to play in improving the delivery of building projects

Nigel Ostime

The Farmer Review recognises the need to cast the net wide in understanding the issues and looking for solutions, but it focuses on construction delivery without discussing how designers can play their part. The RIBA has recently launched two initiatives that emphasise the role architects have to play here.

Farmer promotes the use of pre-manufactured solutions, particularly in the housing sector. The RIBA, in collaboration with Buildoffsite and the Offsite Management School, has developed a DfMA overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work, encouraging designers to consider offsite methods of construction from the outset of the design process. (It is generally too late if these considerations only come during the Technical Design and Construction stages.)

The proper application of DfMA methods can lead to significant reductions in onsite labour needs as well as a plethora of other benefits improving quality, predictability, safety and so on. Certainly Hawkins\Brown’s experience of DfMA on projects such as Crossrail and a number of our education and residential buildings bears this out.

Measurement is a critical process on the path to improvement and the survey has been described as a brave move, showing a maturity and willingness to accept criticism

The second initiative from the RIBA is an online survey asking clients to rate the service they receive from architects with a view to improving areas where the profession falls short. At a time when resources in the industry are under pressure, smart working is key to the successful delivery of building projects.

Measurement is a critical process on the path to improvement and the survey has been described as a brave move, showing a maturity and willingness to accept criticism.

The survey was developed by the RIBA’s Client Liaison Group, which was set up to provide a forum for the architectural profession to hear views directly from client bodies and provide a vehicle to feed initiatives from the RIBA back to clients. The survey was launched last May and is the first of its kind in the construction industry. It was completed by nearly 1000 clients, roughly one third domestic, one third commercial and one third contractor clients. It is planned to conduct the survey every two years to monitor trends.

The results, to be published in November alongside the 2016 RIBA Business Benchmarking Report, will highlight what architects do well – broadly speaking creative design – but will also highlight room for improvement in project management, particularly in working for and with contractors.

Overall, clients like the product but are less satisfied with the process. This may be a reflection of architecture education which focuses more on creativity and problem solving than it does a collaborative process and management skills.

Recognising this, the Client Liaison Group has also initiated a move to get real, commercial clients into schools of architecture to help students develop skills in the important dialogue during briefing and design development. It is early days but in due course the plan is to broaden this to bring in other members of the project team.

How the profession uses the results of the survey to make improvements is down to individual practitioners, but it is clear that without change our industry will continue to find it difficult to attract the best candidates in competition with other industries.

Nigel Ostime, Project Delivery Director, Hawkins\Brown Architects and chair of the RIBA Client Liaison Group

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