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.

  • I have worked on both sides of the fence: architectural/design firms and in design/project management over several decades.
    I strongly believe in facilitating an idea into the built form and take much pride in achieving this. I take issue with your first point of keeping 'design as predictable as possible'. Nothing evolves if we stick to this mantra and I think it an easy way out for the construction industry and builders because it streamlines your tasks. The process needs to be much more collaborative than this: both architects and designers need to understand the construction process better, and contractors and builders need to understand the creative ideas and design intent better. Time needs to be factored into the design, documentation and construction process to explore new ideas (technology, detailing, construction methods, materials and the design concept itself ALWAYS in the context of the site/surroundings/environment).
    I agree that good documentation is important. But, like telling a story, it needs to be not only succinct, well told but also actvely listened to and understood; the contractor needs to assimilate what is before him/her to avoid the predictable way out.

    • Hi Marisa. Thanks for your comment and apologies for the late reply. I see your point, however I believe that very effective and creative design can be done using simple building elements and processes (without being boring or standard). This is the real challenge of the Designer and it can be argued that they are showing more creativity by being more resourceful and coming up with simple but effective designs and avoiding complexity for the sake of complexity (some see complexity as good design) or because of employing complexity because the Designer is simply inexperienced or ineffectual.

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