Balanced

/ Paul Sutton / Creative Workspace

At our quarterly Design Group Monday Morning Meetings, we discuss the administrative, technological and regulatory context in which we build. At these meetings a broad range of issues are discussed, from the administration of office expenses, the latest development of our software templates, the changing of regulations that must be complied with, our thinking, such as for an upcoming Pecha Kucha workshop on cultural architecture, and useful construction details worth sharing.

One topic much discussed in recent weeks is our expanded responsibility as a result of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 that came into effect last year. These regulations clearly state that it is the duty of the lead designer to design out and manage health and safety risks on projects, working in tandem with the contractor to minimise risks during construction. Prior to this change in legislation, the champion of health & safety issues was typically the CDM Co-ordinator, who often had a more remote involvement in projects than the designer.

It is wholly appropriate for us as lead designers to take a more active role in the management of health and safety risks and to design these out wherever possible, from the very early stages of a project. As a result, we are implementing ever more considered structures in our practice to review and diminish risk at every stage of the project; from workshops between our health & safety advisors, discussions with our own in-house champion of health & safety issues and engagement with other Design Team consultants, such as services and structural engineering.

We are also considering earlier in the process the logistics of the construction of our buildings and using our Building Information Modelling software to better visualise how site traffic can be managed: where compounds can be located for site offices and worker welfare facilities, where mobile and static cranes could be located to serve the construction site, and any risks posed by site features, such as underground services, busy main roads, steep embankments and adjacent properties. This forward thinking is allowing us to engage contractors on these issues as an equal partner and contribute more effectively to health & safety and logistics issues on-site.

In parallel to this, part of the role of an architect is to reconcile pragmatic demands, such as the need to ensure the health & safety of those who build and use our buildings, with more abstract concerns and qualities such as beauty, order, scale and rhythm. It is in this vein, for example, that we look to synthesise and integrate all of the devices that are required for modern buildings to perform effectively and safely – from smoke detectors, air extract grilles, light fittings and double sockets through to gas pipes and boiler flues. We believe that good design lies in the centre of this venn diagram between pragmatism and beauty – or in other words in the balance between poetry and prose.