The client at the design stage

The client is responsible for decision-making and decision approvals throughout the design stage. The design stage is where the design team develops the project details, starting with outline diagrams and sketches, and moving through sketch designs to more complete designs of the entire building.

The design team should include cost specialists who develop a cost plan with reference to the design proposals. Costs need to be explicit and clearly state what is included or excluded. For example: fitting out works, landscaping, design fees, VAT and many other total project related costs.

Key decision points during this stage, for the client, are approving the design proposals (ie design drawings, schedule of accommodation and an outline description of the building) and their costs. Relatively little expenditure has been accrued by the time the design stage is complete; the decisions made here, however, will fix the costs of construction and running the building for the foreseeable future. It is hard to change designs once they have been agreed, as we saw on the previous diagram, as any changes made after this point are likely to result in extra time and cost.

Decision-making for the client centres on the design suggestions developed by the design team and the cost approvals needed by the cost manager, in order to agree the outline brief and move to detailed brief stage.

At detailed brief stage the client should extend and refine the information from the agreed outline brief, set out expectations on design quality, indicate sustainability targets, explain the future needs of the building, and state the overall project aims. It is recommended that the above points have been discussed and agreed with key stakeholders.

The detailed design stage is where all the constituent parts of the project are brought together, described and depicted on drawings and in the specification.

The design stages are iterative and will lead to an agreed design solution with the client. The design team (and client team) must ensure that the project vision, initial outline brief and feasibility study, budget cost limits, business plan and life cycle costs, are continuing to be met during this phase of the project.

If you are experienced in construction project delivery, you will notice that there has been little mention so far in crucial project matters relevant to procurement and tendering issues, ie to appoint a contractor to carry out the actual construction works. These issues are being considered at this time and seen as under the technical control of the construction project manager and the project team. Once successfully completed and a contractor is appointed, the construction stage begins when project activity commences on site. The design phase may overlap with construction to some extent, dependent on the procurement route, and the type of role undertaken by the contractor.

The construction phase and how it is carried out is governed by the standard form of contract between the client and the contractor. The contract sets out the rules of the construction game and the specific responsibilities of named individuals and organisations to the contract.

Guidance for project stages

We have outlined the activities that are needed to realise and deliver a construction project. Formal plans of work exist which describe the key stages – within the UK the most well known is the RIBA Plan of Work. Published by the Royal Insitute of British Architects, reflecting historically that architects were the project leaders, it is a schedule of work stages which outline the key stages for procurement design and construction of a project. It was substantially revised in 2013.

Your task

At this point, you may wish to watch the video below where Dale Sinclair summarises the key changes to the RIBA Plan of Work:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

If you are unable to watch the video for any reason, similar information can be found on this Construction Manager Magazine page.

Download a copy of the Plan of Work 2013 and become familiar with the eight task stages it recommends, noting that we have only dealt with pre-construction issues.

To ensure you are familiar with the RIBA Plan of Work stages and the roles and responsibilities of the project team, complete the quiz in the next step.

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This article is from the free online course:

Procurement Strategies and Tendering

Coventry University