Liam Bryant of Webb Yates Engineers reflects on the latest Technical Expert Panel meeting and subsequent workshop in March.
Following the initial Expert Panel meeting in November 2022, the members had split to consider the key challenges highlighted and reconvened in March 2023 to continue the conversation.
It was a broad ranging workshop, starting focused on the risks, highlighted in the Grenfell enquiry, generated by fragmented design responsibility. A key concern each discipline / consultant will tend to focus on their scope at the exclusion of managing interfaces with other disciplines, risking poor integration / scope gaps.
It was felt that to manage this, a key role was that of “Design Management”, whether an official “Design Manager” or simply by the Lead Designer.
The exact nature of this role was discussed, as it was felt that often the role is misunderstood. It was agreed that the role should be responsible for ensuring the integration and coordination of designs and scope across the entire team, necessitating a high-level understanding of all disciplines, as well as commercial and management skills.
Currently it is felt that this role does not have sufficient recognition, with no clear career path / training in place for “Design Managers” and that this role is critical to de-risk the projects of the future.
The conversation led onto the contractual requirements to align all parties and ensure that responsibility for these interfaces is managed collaboratively, with reference to the Alliance approach used for larger scale works.
This led onto discussion about the management of data and record keeping, alongside the “Golden Thread” principle. It was discussed that often the designers have this information and wish to make it available, but that responsibility for managing the information after project completion is often unclear.
This has been highlighted as a key challenge for the retrofits of the future, where poor data management will prevent full exploitation of the opportunities offered by the data rich design information produced. A key issue highlighted was the lack of “common standard” of data, making comparisons between projects or materials challenging.
It was felt that design teams are already ready to support this, but that more needed to be done to raise awareness / understanding with asset owners.
It was also noted that individual materials / elements such as facades similarly lack a common standard, with product data sheets providing information in incompatible formats, preventing clear comparsions of options. It was agreed that the group would look to work with the Net Zero Panel to develop a “standardised” approach to this.