Message Delivered, Message Received

By Roger Green, Architect AIBC, MRAIC, M.Arch, BEDS, BA, LEED® AP
MQN Architecture and Interior Design

As children we played a game called telephone, in this game children whispered a message from one individual to the next around a circle. When the message made it to the last child, it was compared to the original. In the cases where strong collaboration occurred the end message was similar to the original. Other times the resulting message was confused and had deviated significantly from the original meaning. Often the delivery of a project feels similar to playing telephone as the building moves from concept to reality. The ability to clearly communicate the project scope and requirements is important. 


Successful buildings have always been the result of collaboration between the client, designers, and contractors. A strong team, clear expectations, and concise information will typically result in a project which all involved parties will consider successful. Through recent decades the delivery of projects has changed with increased complexity, decreased timeframes, and changing delivery methods. Now more than ever it is critical that the collaboration between the team occurs to ensure the desired outcome. 


Building complexity has also increased during the last few decades. Government, manufacturers, building science, and technology have all changed and require increasingly complex buildings to accommodate these changes. Through these changes it is beneficial to start working collaboratively at earlier stages of projects. Utilizing the specific experience of a contractor and shaping the design to respond to the contractor’s experience can reduce confusion and errors. Input received during the design phase through collaboration can sometimes simplify a project and even provide design opportunities.


The design and construction industry is managing reduced timelines for project delivery. Whether driven by client needs, financial requirements, or simply the speed with which society now moves, projects have shorter time frames. To address the reduced timeline, contractors and designers have had to look at overlapping schedules for the project delivery. To complete projects, fast-track delivery models have been developed where the contractor is receiving partial information at staged intervals. Working with the client, the designer and the contractor need to understand the goals of this information and the scope of information provided. Without close collaboration between the parties these shortened timelines lead to additional risk. Mitigation of this risk can only occur through clear communication and sharing of knowledge between the team.


Project communication has evolved from paper drawings and specifications to digital information. The tools to deliver this information have changed with the design team utilizing BIM modelling, cloud-based tracking, email, and other technology. Contractors are also utilizing these technologies through the construction process. With multiple communication tools in play, it is important that information is provided not only in a timely manner but also that the delivery platform clearly understood. Shared information bases can enable increased accuracy and efficiency. Selecting the method of information delivery for a project and sticking to the defined approach can minimize variables caused by changing systems part way through the process.


Plato wrote that you could not step twice into the same river reasoning that changes are constantly occurring. Construction is the same and building today is not like building a decade ago, collaboration between the client, design team, and contractor is more important than ever to ensure that required information is clearly conveyed. Looking to the future, while we cannot be sure what materials or timeframes will be, it is clear that collaboration will always be central to success.

 


This article first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of SICA's Construction Review Magazine. To read the entire magazine click here.

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