Design

/ Paul Sutton / Creative Workspace

It is almost a year since we effected the transition to an Employee Owned Business, so we are in a process of examining how we are getting on. The context which we are doing this has been an improving market and an exciting growth in opportunities to contribute to making good architecture. One aspect of that review is to check how we provide technical support for our design thinking but also how we manage the exponential explosion in the auditable requirements of our work.

The challenge for any organisation is how to provide a recognisable mental map of it how it works and interacts. We have developed a simple model that describes each project in the office. Each project is imagined as a wedge in our office ‘pie chart’ of projects - we imagine each wedge acting like a workbench. To make the auditable activity comprehensible for every workbench we imagine a five winged areofoil ceiling ventilator, rotating above each of these project workbenches. So as each project is being developed, above our mental workbench are these rotating aerofoil wing constantly reminding us not to forget these broader aspects on each project.

Each aerofoil wing therefore is understood to deal with what we see as a crucial part of the auditing process. The first of our notional blades focus’s on CDM and Health and Safety - whatever we have to do has to be safe and procedures followed to ensure this is being checked. Additionally in looking forward we need to take into account the changing statutory roles that are emerging.

Where CDM is motivated by external pressure our second initiative called provocatively Jellybeans represents our creativity and optimisation across every project - how we can enhance what we do and deliver interesting projects. The third blade seeks to reconcile creativity and practicality in the form of Design Review, where we share the experience of the office with each project. For students of design, the ‘crit’ is always seen as a benchmark of the design process. Each project is therefore 'crited' at different stages of a project, we see the advantage that in sharing - we short-circuit the steps to a successful outcome.

Of course what we do needs to be audited and sometimes we need external help with this. As a result we seek external support for our processes. Explaining and describing our model of actions through application for management accreditation ensures we are as professional as we can be, this forms our fourth wing.

Our final blade relates as much to an aspiration, and that is how we deliver the government requirements by 2016 of having achieved a significant level of coordination with our fellow professionals and builders with regard to what is called BIM, building information modelling.

The big headlines lie in achieving safe working and building environments without losing creativity, testing ourselves as we do it and allowing ourselves to be tested. To that end our adoption of government targets to achieve our digital standards runs parallel to our aim to make good architecture, rooted in its place stories and needs.

What we have seen that each project, architect or team cannot solve or cover all these complex aspects individually on every project. Our overhead aerofoil brings fresh air to each project. It is how we reassure each architect and team that there is an overarching support ensuring the quality of what we do.

Design Support CoGs