An exclusive excerpt from 'Design to Value: The architecture of holistic design and creative technology' book by Mark Bryden, Professor John Dyson, Jaimie Johnston MBE and Martin Wood. Published by RIBA Books.

Design to Value in the Built Realm.

The complexity of architecture, engineering and building technologies has increased exponentially in recent decades, distorting how buildings are designed, constructed and even conceived. In parallel, architecture has become acutely, myopically object-oriented, celebrating the product rather than the process. In unison, these routes have led the discipline into a service-centered approach, one that seeks to hastily resolve problems rather than solve them holistically, carefully and analytically. What if we look past the hospital building and see the journeys of a thousand patients, past the factory and reflect on the launch of a lifesaving treatment, past the data centre and muse upon the millions of connected people.

Design to Value explores just that.

Much design practice has reacted to complexity through specialisation to make it feel more ‘manageable’ – fracturing the building process by elevating expertise. Today, rarely does an architect oversee the entire building process, from analysis to aesthetics, engineering to construction. Yet architects have a unique capacity to critically understand and engage with the myriad stakeholders involved in a design process – and those who will ultimately use building and be affected by its presence. By fracturing the design process, traditional approaches to design and construction make room for ballooned budgets (being over budget is a built-in assumption at this point), rushed decision making, sacrificed ethics and injurious miscommunication and lack of trust. Design to Value embraces complexity, acknowledging the complementary nature of ‘value drivers’: the financial, aesthetic, socio-environmental and processual. Rather than breaking down the design process into discrete, rigid steps, Design to Value seeks nuance and the space for innovation in the layers of each project. Keeping a project and all its elements together is, however, complex – but not complicated. The complexities, interactions and patterns reveal the essence of every project – they tell the stories of where value actually lies. Innovationunlocks a beautiful and creative process which allows for a collision of perspectives and thinking. And it is these insights that can lead to elegant solutions to complex problems.

Definition and Origins of Design to Value.

With roots in both the rapid iterating of product design and the holistic thinking of total architecture of the past, Design to Value combines the relentless seeking of value with a clarity of purpose. Each project is unique, but an ethos and approach prevail: you focus on what you want the project to do, how it should best function and who it should serve –rather than a specific material outcome.

In this sense, Design to Value begins with near-anthropological analysis, delving deep into the various needs of each project’s constituents, from client to planner to end users. Describing the needs of all of the stakeholders in a project leads to a ‘problem statement’. Unlike a traditional brief, which works to corral a project before it even begins, effectively shutting down possibilities, a problem statement opens them up. The problem statement pinpoints the gap between the existing state and the desired state (of a company, a site, a process) and defines the core values that will drive the project. This, of course, runs counter to how many architects and engineers work today. Normally in design and construction, a client hires an architect with a predefined brief in hand. The very descriptor –brief– points to a system that diminishes the basis of a project, marginalising it to a minor, condensed idea rather than an expansive and radial statement of purpose. Design to Value, on the other hand, asks that clients rather approach every project with a question, or set of problems, to be solved – not a directive. The architect’s role is to define the core problem and then to find innovative solutions. 

To purchase this book, visit RIBA Books