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Managing Design Efficiently - Part 1


Designing a building is always exciting, especially for anyone involved for the first time. Each building represents a three-dimensional solution of a design problem in which an owner questions “Who am I? What makes me unique? Why build, and when is the best time? How can I get the most for my money?”

To find the best solutions, even seasoned facility owners can benefit from the insights of professionals concerned with effective design practices. This article is the first of a three-part series combining insights from facility owners, architects, engineers, and contractors experienced in partnering to make the design process more effective. This leveraging of time spent during design helps boost the shared goals of realizing desired outcomes, producing the best possible results for facility owners, and maximizing the return on dollars invested.


Before engaging architects and engineers, owners can prepare by clearly defining as many unique facility requirements as possible. This may begin with identifying an internal team of individuals who offer their valuable input to formulate a building program. By involving key people early, in anticipation of continued involvement, clear lines of authority are established. This allows the team a better understanding of responsibilities for decision-making, allows better support of decision makers, and helps maintain responsibility throughout the design process.

Each internal team should designate a central decision-maker, tasked with the primary responsibility of interacting with the design team. This individual should be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the group, and skilled at engaging in open, honest communication. In practice, the best communicators are often adept at revealing not only what they know, but also, as importantly, what they don’t know.

The best designers don’t expect decision-makers to have all the answers. Creative professionals are employed to lead a process which helps identify what is and is not known, helping their clients fill in the blanks.

During early design, a willingness to admit the unknown eliminates assumptions and encourages creative solutions. Conversations during design often center upon identifying the best among various possibilities for eliminating an unknown. Decision-makers should expect to establish personal trust, mutual respect, transparency and the ability to openly communicate during the early stages of design, and to maintain that rapport throughout design.

When owners demonstrate from the onset that a project’s conceptual needs are convertible into actual requirements, that consensus can be attained, that open communication will be delivered, and that central decision-making responsibility is effectively in place, designers and builders sense potential for a streamlined approach. With this comes a measure of confidence in a process that enables the remaining design phase activities to unfold more efficiently.


For a more detailed examination of effective pre-project planning, consult the Texas Facilities Commission’s publication entitled “Appendix G: Facilities Programming Guidelines”.