Hands-on design management – A key to success

13th May 2020

Michael Bunyan


How do you work with the design team to deliver results on budget and to meet quality aspirations? In the current market, where we have seen the clerk of works role reappear, there is potential for real value to be achieved throughout the design process by applying a similar, hands-on approach to design management based on practical experience and technical expertise.

The standard approach – focused on roles and responsibilities and sign-off gateways – is too process driven. There is always a place for the process, but the application of practical construction experience and knowledge can make a significant impact on staying within the project budget, while still meeting design quality and sustainability objectives. This is an overlooked role for the project manager.

Project managers should actively engage in the design process with an understanding of how the project will be built, as well as look. To do this today’s project managers need to have more than a basic understanding of construction methodologies and a deeper understanding of materials, logistics, programming and modern methods of construction.

Some clients will seek this input from a contractor rather than a project manager or design team, however far too often contractor involvement in the design is either left to the last moment or only when value engineering is needed on a project.

Having worked as a main contractor, consultant and client I understand the different pressures and requirements each role has on a project but I believe that by applying a construction management ethos through a ‘Project Management Plus’ service, we project managers should deliver real value on projects, using our knowledge and construction experience.

How many project managers really go into design in detail, from reviewing every drawing as it is issued to fully understanding intricate junction details or waterproofing designs?

It’s interesting when interviewing possible candidates for K2 that generally their current employers either don’t go into this detail or they don’t see this as a role for a project manager. When further questioned the usual response is that this is a role for the architect or contractor and that although they have an understanding of construction they wouldn’t know how to review or challenge a design.

My belief is that robust, hands-on design management is under-valued and that it delivers a significant proportion of the benefits we bring to our clients. By investing in our people and providing project leadership we ensure that this ethos and mission is continually developed and delivered.


About the author

Michael Bunyan is a Director with K2 Consultancy, heading up the Project Management Team. He has over 15 years’ experience of the industry and a contracting background, giving him a distinctive combination of technical expertise, detailed construction knowledge and a hands-on approach to project management. Michael has a track record of delivering major construction and strategic projects and has headed up accounts, site teams and cross-functional teams with the successfully delivery of numerous projects across all sectors.

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