Most of us would agree that documentation is often the biggest part of design. Therefore, it has the greatest scope for fee savings.

Fee savings can be divided into four general areas:

  1. Keeping design as predictable as possible
  2. Purchase of documentation tools
  3. Documentation clarity
  4.  Just getting it right first time

Keeping design as predictable as possible

Each project and each client has different challenges, and some things we can’t change.

However, we can minimise ‘reinventing the wheel’ each time by standing by certain design standards and saying “no” to clients who won’t accept them.

Saying “no” can be hard. Bills have to be paid, but unless you set a measurable design benchmark, and unless you pre-qualify clients and only work with those who accept your benchmark, you will be forever reinventing the wheel, which is time-expensive in all facets of your work.

This design benchmark will allow you to pre-document many things so you only document them once.

Purchase of documentation tools

Considerations here may be obvious, but you need to consider documentation tool purchases, updates, speed of use, consultant compatibility, and training of staff.

For CAD systems, it can be worth spending time and perhaps getting expert advice from different sources to resolve this.

Speed of documentation is critical. How much money could you save on each project if staff members finished their work days or weeks earlier than they currently do?

Documentation clarity

If you set up your documentation to be predictably clear (see the first consideration, ‘Keeping design as predictable as possible’), not only will staff finish tasks faster and with less questioning, but you will have to address fewer construction issues.

Arguments with builders drain fees perhaps more alarmingly than you may have considered, and it’s not just the extra time, energy and good will you burn by arguing with the builder. It’s the unhappy clients (they don’t pay you for fights) perhaps not only refusing to do business with you again, but also spreading bad news to other prospective clients.

The internet allows little place to hide now, so this cost could be lethal to a practice!

Just getting it right first time

Sometimes we just get stuff out fast, but this is a bad habit to form. Having your design benchmarks pre-documented (see the first consideration, ‘Keeping design as predictable as possible’) will certainly lessen the need to rush.

We all know it takes a lot more effort and time to fix something than to do it right first up.