How to monitor design quality

You will need to decide on your priorities, benchmark your project, identify the right design assessment tools, plan your monitoring and consider getting an external evaluation of your design.

1. Decide on your priorities

To do this at a building scale, you need to understand how design quality has an impact across the broad issues, the personal scale and the detail, in order to understand how to invest wisely. After all, good design does not mean big budget.

2. Benchmark your project

You need to compare your project to what others have achieved in similar circumstances so you can put design decisions in context. You and your team need to develop a shared understanding of the range of qualities you expect to see. CABE’s best practice case study library is a good place to start, but you should also talk to other clients and visit projects that are similar in scale to yours.

3. Identify the right design assessment tools

Identify early on which design assessment tools you wish to use.

Often tools dovetail with each other. For example, BREEAM, the assessment tool for sustainability, should be used from the beginning of a project. Most other assessment tools can be used at briefing stage. You can use assessment processes to develop discussions with your design team early on, and go on to involve different users to inform detailed development.

Avoid seeing design assessment tools as hoops to jump through. They work best when used early on and the solutions to a project are still open.

4. Don’t approach monitoring as a tick-box exercise

Avoid the risk of seeing design assessment tools as hoops to jump through. They work best when used early on, when the solutions to a project are still open. Although they can seem complex, approach them as a catalyst for discussion rather than like passing a driving theory test. Developing a design is a creative process.

5. Plan how you will monitor/assess design at different stages

Many of the available tools are useful at various stages of a project. They are intended to be checked back on as the project progresses.

Agree the timetable for assessment with your design team and integrate it into their programme.

6. Consider an external evaluation of your design

As well as internal assessment, you could consider an external evaluation of your design to get some impartial feedback.

For example, you could arrange for your design to be reviewed by an expert multi-disciplinary design review panel. At design review a project is presented by the client, design team and local authority to an expert multi-disciplinary panel.  The panel discusses the project with those present and then provides constructive comments in writing. Undertaking this kind of review is most productive before you submit your design for planning approval.

7. Commit resources to evaluate quality

Evaluating the building in use to see how it performs against your brief can be useful for your organisation and other clients. Many buildings don’t get used in the way they were intended, which can be very wasteful of resources.

See preparing for use and evaluating and improving for an exploration of the role of assessment at this stage.