Whose Design is it Anyway?


Not everyone is aware that Pyments have their own in house Mechanical and Electrical team; Pyments M&E Solutions… Read on for some sound advice…

In a previous issue of Pyment’s “In Focus” Steve Watson set out that across recent Pyments projects circa 35% of construction claim costs were attributable to M&E claims, and of those M&E claims 60% of the monetary value was related to programme issues; prolongation, disruption, L&E etc. Steve then proffered the question “are D&B projects more susceptible to Loss & Expense claims?”

It’s a good question, as Pyments do see quite a few delay and L&E disputes which originate from M&E design issues.

With M&E building services the choice at project inception stage is not as simple as selecting “pre-designed” or “design & install”. On what could loosely be referred to as “full” pre-designed projects the Contractor and specialist installers will have some design to undertake. Similarly, on “full” design & install jobs the Client’s team will also have ongoing design-related exercises and probably partial design responsibility (devilish contract clauses notwithstanding) as errors within the Employer’s Requirements documents may remain their risk.

The successful design of M&E installations is in practice a joint effort, where at some point the early-stage design work is provided to the Contractor to take forward. This handover “point” is normally at Contract formation but how far developed should the M&E design be at that stage, and is it clear what design activities remain for Client’s design team during the Contract period?

On live projects and during retrospective analysis, Pyments have identified delays arising from design activity disagreements; a design-related delay is not always caused by the M&E design being incorrect, it’s more often related to a design activity not being undertaken in a timely manner.

In addition, where systems were found not to perform as expected, for example during the commissioning period, delay can arise whilst the team try to determine if there is a design problem or an installation problem, and then while arguing about who is responsible.

How many times have asked yourself in frustration “whose design is it anyway?” as the team in the meeting room continue to argue about;

• Who should produce the builder’s work drawings and the reflected ceiling plans?
• Are the sub-contractor’s installation drawings adequately detailed?
• Who should have undertaken a detailed survey and identified the location of those problematic existing services?
• Was the M&E design provided at Contract stage sufficiently advanced?
• Who owns the risk when the M&E plant selected by the specialist sub-contractor, to meet the performance specification, won’t fit in the plantroom which has been built to the Architect’s dimensions?
• What is covered by co-ordination? Contractors produce co- ordinated installation drawings, but are they obliged to rectify all earlier design inadequacies?

Our starting point when asked to advise on issues of this type is to ask: “what does it say in the Contract documents?”. However, we often find reference to the M&E specification and tender drawings does not readily provide a definitive answer.

As ever with construction projects, the more time spent prior to entering into Contract, setting out in detail exactly what has to be done and in what time frame, will improve the chances of the right product being delivered on time and without dispute. With regard the M&E design process, help is at hand in the form of BSRIA publication BG6; “A Design Framework for Building Services”.

“Drawing definition: Coordinated working drawings”

“A Design Framework for Building Services”

This document (now in its 5th edition) BSRIA BG6/2018 has been available since 2006 and is still not used as frequently as it should be. BSRIA have set out the activities necessary to take a M&E design, stage by stage, from initial brief, through concept design, developed design, and technical design, and then through construction stage (installation drawings) and handover. The design stages are aligned with the RIBA Plan of Work 2013, and broadly in line with the ACE schedule of services. Separate proformas are provided to set out the individual design activities to be undertaken within each stage.

BG6/2018 does not attempt to prescribe how you design M&E services from a technical point of view; we have to refer to CIBSE documents (and other publications) for that, but it does set out what has to be done at each stage and armed with this understanding, we can move forward to deciding who should undertake the various activities.

The first stage in that process has to be determined by the Client’s team, as they have to decide how far to develop their plans before sending the project out for tender; they may choose to produce a Concept Design, RIBA Stage 2 and appoint a Contractor on that basis, or a Developed Design, RIBA Stage 3 or Technical Design being RIBA Stage 4. (Pre-2013 these RIBA design stages were referenced as stage D, E, F1, F2 etc). Once the Client’s team have made that decision, the Client’s Consultant will know, by reference to BG6/2018, what level of M&E detail has to be included in the M&E tender package (and can set his fee’s accordingly). As the titles suggest a Developed Design has more detail than a Concept Design.

It should be clear within the tender documentation what M&E design stage has been completed and what design exercises the successful Contractor will be expected to undertake. This is where BSRIA BG6/2018 should be used; firstly, a plain statement should be provided that the tender documentation has been prepared to say “Stage 3 – Developed Design” and to clarify what design activities remain, and which party is expected to complete them, the BSRIA BG6 design activity proformas for the remaining stages, stages 4, 5 and 6 in this example, should be completed and included in the tender documentation.

BSRIA advise when completing the design activity proformas that “design leadership” for each activity is allocated to a single party; Consultant, Architect, Contractor, M&E Sub-Contractor or specialist Sub-Contractor, and where necessary “support” and “review” are also allocated. So, we may see, “lead” and “support” for certain activities. Examples of individual activity allocation would be the M&E Sub-Contractor providing Builder’s Work Information and the Architect designing the roof top weatherproofing details for M&E services passing through the external envelope.

BSRIA advise that activities not required should simply be struck out; if there is no requirement for cooling on the project there is no need to allocate any party the task of refrigeration pipework sizing. If there was cooling this task would probably be allocated to the relevant specialist sub-contractor.

With regard (to) deliverables; such as provision of co-ordinated working drawings or builders’ work drawings, BSRIA again provide proformas to allow allocation of the activity and provide example drawings to show the level of detail which would be considered acceptable, and clarify whether they need to show dimensions or what scale they should be.

BSRIA BG6/2018 therefore provides a ready made “framework” for the design of M&E building services which enables the Client to accurately detail which design activities they require their supply chain to undertake. If the Client has not done this the Contractor may introduce the BSRIA BG6 proformas as a tool to help resolve any ambiguity, before entering into Contract. The completed proformas may be used by the Contractor down the supply chain so specialist sub-contractors are in turn clear on their design activities. Further, the proformas should be used as ongoing management tools to flag up activities not yet completed.

Establishing clearly who has to undertake which design activity at Contract stage can only help to reduce the number of disagreements and delays which arise during the onsite period. It also provides visibility to allow the Contractor to price in the cost of the required exercises; behind many of those frustrating delays and arguments is the matter of who is going to pay for undertaking the activity.

Note that BSRIA refer to the design exercises on the design allocation proformas as “activities” rather than “responsibilities”. That is quite correct as dependent upon specific contract amendments it would be possible for one party to be required to undertake a design activity but another party be responsible for it, and therefore own the risk.

“BG6/2018 and the RIBA Plan of Work”

Returning to the original question; “are D&B projects more susceptible to Loss & Expense claims?” maybe the answer is “not necessarily”; D&B, self-evidently works but care must be taken to clearly set out at Contract stage exactly what design has already been completed and who has to do what during the Contract period to complete the exercise. BSRIA BG6/2018 is the management tool designed to achieve this.

Pyments possess a unique blend of skills to help you navigate these design related conundrums, including technical, commercial, contract law, delay analysis and project services. The focus at all times at Pyments is upon “dispute prevention”.

Contact us if you feel we can help.


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