Best-value process asks stakeholders what they are hoping for from the scheme before design work begins

A group of leading firms in the construction industry has developed a method of ensuring that projects deliver the best possible value for their users.

The Value in Design (VALiD) system works by bringing together a project’s stakeholders before design work begins. The stakeholders fill in questionnaires tailored to the function of the building, and these are then synthesised to provide a guide for the design.

The system was tested on a project for pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. This set out 44 criteria for defining the aim of the project, such as the extent to which the building should encourage interaction and how ease of access should be balanced against the need for security.

The development group includes Amec, Davis Langdon, Sheppard Robson, Arup, BAA, Broadgate Estates, the RIBA, the RICS, CABE and Loughborough University

The group hopes to avoid basic disputes and to prevent the problems suffered by users of the first wave of PFI hospitals, many of whom complained that the finished schemes did not fit their needs.

Each stakeholder gives a value from one to 10 on every issue the team deems to be important, such as building accessibility. These values are then turned into targets to be assessed at each stage of the project.

Sheppard Robson partner Andrew Bowles, who has headed up the VALiD steering group over the past three years with the help of a grant from the DTI, said the tool offered an opportunity to judge how well projects delivered on areas that could not be given a definite value.

It provides the public sector with a rigorous way of assessing value

Don Ward

He said: “It is easy to judge if a building meets mechanistic criteria such as being 10,000 m2. But people make judgments on less measurable areas, too. We’re trying to capture what these expectations are.”

Don Ward, deputy chief executive of Constructing Excellence in the Built Environment, said his organisation had recommended the system to its members. He said: “It provides local government and the public sector with a rigorous and auditable way of assessing value.

It is particularly good for engaging lay people in thinking about the construction process.”

Keith Snook, head of development at the RIBA, said the system created a properly consultative process. He said: “It will not help everyone get what they want, but will get them talking in a common language.”

The scheme is now being tested by Manchester council.