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We are a digitally powered company with a unique Design to Value approach. Our mission is to transform the design and construction industry using process engineering methodologies, centered around integrated design, construction tech and modern methods of construction. Over the last 25 years we have come up with very efficient and elegant designs for the buildings or infrastructure our clients have needed. What we have also learned is that what our clients need is more than a well-designed building or construction solution. It’s a solution to a business problem.
They might be a pharmaceutical company trying to meet demand for their products in an emerging market; a hospital provider that aims to distinguish itself by providing an efficient and hotel-like experience to patients; or the government transforming the prison estate so that it is more rehabilitative. These may sound like very different clients with very different problems, but what we have found is that their challenges are very similar: they all need a solution to a problem that is difficult to articulate because a lot of people are involved, with different values and different perspectives.
The solution is beyond the competence of any single individual designer. It requires knowledge and expertise from a wide range of stakeholders. Important decisions must be based on evidence, and we have to build a shared understanding of the problem and an agreement on the best solution throughout the process. Then at the end of the process, we produce a detailed but understandable account explaining why the proposed solution is the best. To do this with maximum effect we adopt an integrated design approach and use the latest digital construction technologies.
It is the fundamental similarity between complex projects that led us to develop a method that is at once systematic, probing and analytical, and open and engaging in a way that both stimulates and supports a team’s creativity.
We realised that reaching the most efficient version of the most effective solution to their problem in an iterative and collaborative way, is what would truly deliver value to our clients. As design becomes an increasingly automated activity, our role has been to develop a robust framework that focuses on organising the creative steps in the overall design process that are not easy to automate. These are the steps that require human judgment and interaction with stakeholders.
We call this method ‘Design to Value ’. It focuses on the objectives of our clients and all stakeholders, and combines their expertise in their products or service, with our expertise in design, engineering, modern methods of construction, manufacturing and digital construction technology We use this combined expertise to drive value into the design process.
Although this might sound obvious, it’s a long way from what actually happens in a lot of situations, which aren’t Design to Value led. Typically, clients spend a lot of time thinking about what they want out of a building. They try to formulate the solution as precisely as possible and then appoint a design consultant to turn that into a good design. Stakeholders are consulted along the way and experts review the design at certain points, but have little control over a concept that is put forward by the lead designer and is not always based on a full understanding of all relevant aspects. Changes in the design are discouraged because that only leads to delay.
This is understandable, but it’s a missed opportunity. It’s wrong to think of designers as glorified technicians who turn project briefs into drawings and specifications that can be handed over to a contractor. The real challenge, and where designers can help their clients best, is to engage with stakeholders and come up with creative solutions that form the basis of the brief for a successful project. This is true Design to Value and adopting such an approach in conjunction with Modern Methods of Construction is transformational.
We start out by discussing with our client in more detail what the fundamental problem is that they are facing. We need to understand who is affected by it and its solution. This allows us to identify the stakeholders and what they value. We then determine with our client – and key stakeholders – what the high level aspects are of a solution that would solve this problem. That might sound a bit trivial, but the point is that the solution is almost never a building by itself. A building is a system that, together with other systems, realises the value that matters to client and stakeholders.
In the case of the prison transformation project we worked on, this meant that there were two key components to the solution: the people that work in the prison and the building that allows them to do what they need to do in order to help prisoners in their rehabilitation journey. In the case of a pharmaceutical plant it is the different value-adding steps of the overall process and the interface with people who operate that process and the utilities required for that process.
The most important thing during these initial workshops is to keep an open mind. Rather than tabling a design solution too early and possibly forcing the conversation to a preconceived solution, we encourage stakeholders to speak freely about what matters to them. Through structured questioning and diagramming on flipcharts and whiteboards (or their digital equivalents), we turn those concerns and desires into clear objectives. The aim is to ensure that all stakeholders understand each other’s drivers and that we develop an agreed set of objectives that everyone feels is comprehensive and fair.
We turn that knowledge into an initial, digital model. The model captures all the systems and their interfaces, and represents all aspects of the overall solution that affect the objectives of the various stakeholders. This initial representation allows us to agree what kind of expertise we require to develop a solution. For a prison design, that might mean that we need to understand how guards and social workers do their jobs. For a pharmaceutical plant, it might mean we need a specialist in oral solid dose manufacturing, a quality representative and a health and safety specialist.
Based on this initial representation, we can start gathering the knowledge and data that is essential for developing a solution. We use this input to create a comprehensive and holistic model of the problem and the outline solution. We call this process Chip Thinking®️. It allows us to generate outputs about its performance under different conditions.
This is a powerful picture that allows all stakeholders to understand the problem and come up with creative ideas in a structured way that take into account what others know, while focusing on aspects that matter to achieve a successful solution. Jointly they can then decide what to do next. Do we need better data or knowledge about a certain aspect? Do we need to model some aspects in more detail? Does the solution need to be completely different? Have we formulated the problem properly in the first place? Working with a Design to Value approach enables this type of questioning and flexibility.
We repeat this sequence of steps until everyone involved is satisfied that all relevant expertise has been brought to bear on the solution and that the solution fully addresses all aspects of the problem. This iterative process might appear familiar, but what makes the Design to Value method different is that the focus is not simply on developing a detailed description of a solution to allow someone to build it. It is to represent the evolving design in a way that is relevant to the stakeholders so they can understand the choices made and judge whether the design meets their needs. This is a unique advantage of our Chip Thinking®️ process.
Rather than showing increasingly detailed plans and elevations, we represent the solution in terms of what it does to solve the client’s problem. For a prison that needs to be more rehabilitative, this means: showing what is visible from where; how activities are distributed across the buildings and the site; how the buildings are zoned and controlled to allow free movement while controlling who goes where. For a pharmaceutical plant that needs to satisfy uncertain demand in an emerging market, this could entail seeing the capacity of the production equipment, its utilisation, the labour required to operate it, and the flexibility of the equipment to produce either different or more products.
In each case the representation is driven by what client and stakeholders need to see to satisfy themselves that the proposed solution meets their needs, but also to inform the wider team to decide what the next design iteration needs to look like to create an even better and more detailed solution.
At the end of this process, we have not simply a good design but also a transparent account of how expert knowledge and stakeholder requirements steered the decision-making process. This not only gives our clients the confidence that they have got the right solution, but ensures they understand why this design is preferable over all others. We maximise understanding, efficiency and value.
This process reflects our experience and research on design, thinking and deciding. It is structured to guide and stimulate thinking and creativity. It allows us to combine strategic knowledge on the client side with regards to their business, and our own design knowledge about how buildings work and are constructed.
Our creative use of digital construction technologies allows us to supercharge this process. We have embedded the process into our own management systems and the outputs we produce. We update these continually so that we capture learnings and leverage them to improve the results of the projects that follow. We train all of our teams in the approach and the senior management team helps in using it throughout. We apply the principles of our Design to Value approach internally as well as externally, because we know the exceptional value it creates.
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