Buro Happold chairman to head Construction Industry Council working group formulating KPIs.
The Construction Industry Council is to launch a £250 000 project to produce the UK’s first key performance indicators for design.

The CIC has appointed a working group, led by Buro Happold chairman Michael Dickson, to formulate the indicators. It will also include representatives from the RIBA. The indicators are intended to allow the quality of a design to be measured, and will apply to all professions involved in the design team.

To fund the scheme, the CIC has applied for a £100 000 grant from the DETR, which will decide whether to award it next month. The CIC will provide the remainder of the funding itself.

The council’s chief executive, Graham Watts, said the aim was to have the indicators publicly available within 12 months. “It is a fairly short, sharp project,” he said. The CIC is following in the steps of other sectors that have established KPIs for construction and sustainability.

The indicators will attempt to assess what working group chairman Dickson described as “the intangible and the tangible”, and Watts referred to as the “hard and soft” aspects of a design.

Hard aspects are those that can be measured, such as customer satisfaction, accessibility, environmental matters and buildability. Soft factors require more subjective judgements about a building’s ambience and style, and offer much more scope for disagreement.

I would not underestimate the difficulty of judging such things, but it is needed

Robin Nicholson, CIC

Watts said the CIC would analyse design competitions and awards to assess how quality could be measured. However, he added that he was not aware of the existence of any similar projects that the council could use as a model.

CIC chairman Robin Nicholson admitted that establishing design indicators was a tall order. He said: “I would not underestimate the difficulties of judging such things. People like measuring easy things.”

But Nicholson, also a member of the Movement for Innovation, said that indicators for design were overdue. “It seems to be the right thing to be doing at the right time,” he said. “It’s definitely needed.”

However, Chris Bennie, a partner in architect TP Bennett, warned that the indicators could be too general. “It will be hard for the indicators to span different kinds of buildings. It’s got to be attacked from specialist angles.”

The CIC working group has 60 members representing architects, contractors, clients and lay people. Watts said: “We have managed to get the broadest spectrum and network of supporters. Anyone who has a finger in this pie of measuring design policy is involved.”