A well-defined design brief establishes goals from the outset, prevents miscommunication, defines standards, and acts as a common reference tool for contractors and clients.
Many of our Tier 1 clients – such as Linxon, Murphy, Hitachi Energy and Amco Giffen – have processes and procedures in place to ensure project briefs are fully scoped. However, we also appreciate that this is not always possible. Sometimes, our main contractor client has not received that much information themselves, in order to provide us with a comprehensive brief.
In scenarios where some detail might be lacking, here’s how we work with clients to supplement what’s been provided, minimising risk to their programme and budget.
Every project begins with a brief
Solving any engineering challenge begins with fully understanding the brief. The project briefs we receive differ from client to client and, in varying detail, specify the work to be carried out.
We might be working only on a specific aspect of a project, such as extending a substation and adding transformers to the on-shore substation end of an offshore windfarm development, for example. But, we seek out and take care to review briefs covering the whole project, when possible.
This broader understanding of the client’s goal is of great value, however big or small our involvement. The more information we receive, the better, as understanding the big picture helps us consider our work in full context.
Minimising client risk through experience and clarity
Our job as design engineers is naturally more challenging when all the necessary information isn’t known or available at the outset. So, in situations where we feel some of the detail is missing from a brief, our team works to fill the gaps.
There might be all kinds of deviations to consider if limited information is available. Our experience allows us to ask the right questions – and work with trusted suppliers, if required, to seek the answers – helping to mitigate risk for our clients.
The findings from topographic and PAS 128 surveys, for example, can significantly impact our ability to deliver efficiently. If the client can’t provide this information at brief stage, we advise that surveys are conducted. Certainty about the location of underground utilities, and conducting site visits to see specific constraints within which we have to work with our own eyes, is crucial in designing infrastructure that meets programme and budget.
Once a project is underway we can help provide clarity for our clients and end-clients by using our Synchro 4D construction scheduling and simulation software. Using this tool enables all parties to visualise the programme of the works, evaluate the effect of any changes to the project and review construction sequences. This helps to validate and optimise project plans against the brief, and before construction work begins, identifying potential risks or scheduling issues.
Making use of our engineering toolkit
Often, when designing something that requires modification of existing – sometimes historic – infrastructure, what’s known about that structure may be incomplete and outdated. We might be delivering a project that involves adding substations to an existing building or foundation, for example, or working on assets such as the London Underground.
When confronted with incomplete records, we undertake investigations and opening up works to fill in any knowledge gaps. Taking cores from concrete elements or breaking through surface finishes to verify existing structures can be intrusive, but this is critical in some cases and helps avoid complications, delays, and escalating costs further down the line.
When invasive investigations aren’t possible, Ferro-scans and load exchange calculations are just two of the tools we have available in our arsenal.
For any project, during the briefing stage we clearly communicate our understanding of the scope of our involvement with clients. We detail what’s involved, what’s included/not included and highlight how the various considerations and constraints will be factored in to ensure everyone’s on the same page and provide confidence to all involved stakeholders from the outset. Clients appreciate this scrutiny of detail and open communications.
Ensuring successful project outcomes requires a thorough briefing process. Early engagement and close collaboration with our clients is how we facilitate this. If this is how you like to operate, get in touch to discuss how we can support your next project.