If you are a business owner with an idea for a construction project, you’ll be especially keen to see your project come to life on paper. To do so, you’ll have to work with a design team. In this article, we’ll explore the construction design team roles and responsibilities. The construction design team usually consists of both an architect and a team of engineers. Understanding exactly what a design team does is important for understanding their role within the scope of your project as a whole.
The design team is primarily responsible for taking your idea and bringing it to life using their professional skills. The end result is a design that aligns with the client’s desires, is feasible, and is within the budgetary restrictions for the project.
An important thing to note about the design team is that you’ll begin working with them early on in the project. Design teams are typically brought on at the beginning of a construction project and continue to work on the project throughout its life-cycle. Because of this fact, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind that you’ll be working with the design team over a long period of time. You may find that while the philosophy of certain design teams aligns with your own, their communication style or personality doesn’t mesh as well. Choosing the right design team to work with can have a big impact on project success, so you’ll want to work closely with your project manager during the selection process.
What is the Design Team?
The design team for construction projects consists of an architect and engineers. Often, the team itself may consist of an architectural firm and an engineering firm which themselves employ several architects or engineers. On smaller projects, you may simply have one architect or engineer who is tasked with your project. Each of these groups can have individuals that specialize in specific areas of design or engineering.
The architect or architectural team is responsible for the design stage of the project. The architect will take an idea the owner has and if that idea is feasible, create a design around it. Different types of architects may specialize in different types of projects. Some architects specialize in specific types of buildings, while others specialize in a subset of the project itself. For example, on a single project, you may have an architect who is designing the physical structure for the project and a second landscape architect that is responsible for designing the exterior portion of the project.
Architecture is both an art and a science. Modern professional architects seek to produce buildings that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Increasingly, architects are focusing on incorporating sustainability into their designs, and charting out new ways to add value to the client through design processes.
Your design team will almost certainly consist of one or more engineers in addition to the architect(s). Broadly speaking, engineers are responsible for ensuring that the finished product of the construction project is safely and appropriately constructed. But this isn’t all engineers do on construction projects. Engineers make sure that the project is as efficient as possible, reducing costs while maintaining necessary safety features. Engineers will also conduct an initial survey of the building site to assess feasibility for the project and get a sense of any special accommodations that may need to be made.
An important aspect of what civil engineers are responsible for is ensuring that all local and state legal requirements are met for your project. Early on, this means closely tracking changes to the design to ensure that plans and specifications include any necessary requirements. As the construction project progresses to the physical construction stage, the engineer will regularly review construction to verify that everything is being built according to requirements. Effective engineering firms also specialize in optimizing the building process by finding ways to build more efficiently, reducing both costs and time associated with the project.
The Design Process
Each design team will approach their own creative process differently. That being said, the design phase itself generally occurs very soon after the start of the project. During the first phase of a project, the owner approaches a construction project manager to explain their idea and determine the feasibility of the project. If the construction project manager determines that the project is feasible, they will bring a design team on board within a short period of time.
Bringing the design team onto the project early is both necessary and advantageous. It is necessary because the design must come before the construction phase can begin. You will also need a design before you are able to secure the necessary permitting and entitlements for the project. Getting an early start on the design process also allows the client’s team to quickly gain a sense of whether the structural design is possible, what constraints there are, and whether any entitlements will be necessary.
As the client, you will also want to get the design teams in place and started on the project as soon as possible because the entire process can take a great deal of time. Every construction project is unique. Some projects may also require multiple revisions, each of which will take extra time.
The first draft and subsequent revisions represent a collaborative effort on behalf of both the architects and engineers. When the architect comes up with a design for the project, the engineer will explore a variety of things, including what materials will be required, what support systems will need to be in place, and possibly what design aspects will need to be adjusted. If any adjustments need to be made, the design will be sent back to the architect. Once that draft is done and has been approved by the client and architect, the engineer will need to go over it again to ensure that all safety, legal, and regulatory requirements are met.
Challenges During the Design Process
The biggest challenge facing the design process is the breakdown of communication between the various entities involved. It is difficult to understand how important communication is during this time period. Both the architectural and engineering teams require information from one another. Without the information they need, they cannot move forward with their portion of the project.
Often, communication difficulties stem from a basic misunderstanding about what the other party needs. One team member may not understand that the other requires certain information and may, in fact, feel like they are waiting for information themselves. This isn’t just a risk between members of the design team, but also between the design team and the owner’s team, and the design team and the contractor. Each party involved in a construction project can run into challenges getting the information they need when they need it.
The solution to this problem lies with the project manager. Project managers that are integrated into the process will work to ensure that team members have the information they need to finish their part of the task. By facilitating the flow of information, project managers can ensure costly delays resulting from stagnant communication don’t occur.
A second factor that can affect the success of the design process is a project manager who isn’t familiar with basic design principles. Whereas in the past the product of the design process was a paper schematic, today’s design process revolves around Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is 3d modeling and design software that integrates the design, engineering, and project management roles through the creation of a shareable model depicting design, infrastructure, engineering, and operational information. If project managers aren’t familiar with how BIM functions and how to coordinate the creation of BIM models, the entire design process can become less efficient.
The Role of Construction Project Management in the Design Process
One of the roles of the project manager during the design process is to facilitate the flow of information between other entities involved in the process. This includes the client, architects, and engineers. At a certain point, this may also include bringing a general contractor on board and incorporating them into design discussions. Like other parts of construction projects, in order to be effective, project management teams must be familiar with the design process as a whole. They must understand where problems might arise and work to mitigate those problems as efficiently as possible. The project manager is also responsible for ensuring that each team member has a clear understanding of the project budget and schedule. This will help ensure that the design will progress within the project budget and time constraints.
Project managers are typically engaged throughout the design process. The design phase occupies a significant portion of the preconstruction phase. Design considerations can impact the project timeline and budget and may require the project manager to revise the project’s strategic plan.
Navigating the Selection Process
As the client, you’ll want to work closely with your project manager during the selection process for your design team. The selection of your design team can have a large impact on the success of your project. Designers differ in the types of construction projects they specialize in and in their design philosophy. One designer may specialize in utilitarian industrial design, while another may specialize in creating commercial structures that are aesthetically pleasing and emphasize sustainability. If certain features of design like sustainability or accessibility are important to you, you’ll want to work with a design team that incorporates those features into their design philosophy.
Your project manager will be able to steer you towards designers that have worked on projects that are similar to your own. This is usually a good place to start. From there you’ll want to find the design team whose design philosophy aligns closely with the project outcome you desire. Even after construction has been completed, your project manager and architect will perform a final walkthrough to ensure the physical construction matched the project requirements. In this way, working with the design team is a long-term commitment. As such, you’ll want to be as discerning as possible during the selection process to find a design team that you will be able to work well with.
The design team in the construction industry has an important role. Design team members are engaged with the project through its entire life cycle. Design teams can add value to projects in a variety of ways, from an emphasis on value engineering to implementing sustainable building practices.
To find out more about the design team, including navigating the selection process, please contact Gilliland Construction Management for more information today!