Call it an occupational disability but when I walk trough a city or neighbourhood I often look how our public space is constructed. Being a garden- and landscape engineer my attention is often drawn by the solutions used to solve problems in materials, connections between materials and constructions. In some cases this results in good ideas for problems I encounter during my daily work, in other cases I wonder why somebody choose that solution or why nobody thought about a better (looking) solution. In my opinion a lot of problems, mistakes and failures, which occur during construction could have been prevented by keeping in mind three aspects: trying to find a direct ‘link’ between designers and engineers, making sure one allows a good and precise elaboration in the engineering stage and invest in good project management during construction.
It’s a team effort
Teamwork between designers and engineers is the key to getting a great final-result. Stimulating and allowing a designer and engineer to work together from the start creates the best possible environment for developing a good plan. By working together both professions can complete each other in different ways. Even from the early stages of design a engineer can complete the designer by pointing out the flaws and come up with helpful suggestions and solutions. This guarantees a design that even in its early stage represents a fully functional, feasible and aesthetical plan. Off course this also works the other way around: designers can complete an engineer by clarifying their intentions/wishes and by checking the aesthetical side of the plan on a regular base.
As mentioned the most efficient way of doing this is getting the two fields into one team or office. Sadly enough there is a tendency, because of the current economical situation, to separate the designing task/company from the engineering task/company. The most obvious downside of this separation is the ‘loss’ of valuable information concerning the design idea, there is no longer a direct link between the designer and the engineer. Besides that the ‘new’ party that will do the engineering is likely to have a lot less affinity with the design, something that very often results in unwanted changes to the plan or constructions and esthetically less desirable solutions.
The engineering stage
Of course one is bound to encounter some problems or issues during construction, not everything can be predicted ore tackled in advance. However, the majority can be solved during the engineering stage. That’s why I believe it’s a shame that more and more often clients cut down on the engineering.
In a way I understand that in the current economical situation clients are looking for ways to save money but experience shows that in exchange they’re increasing failure-costs. Nowadays the failure-costs in roadworks and landscaping projects are in average 10-15% of the total budget. Taking these shocking figures in account I think we can conclude that one is likely to spend the money saved on correcting failure during construction.
The same thing applies to project management, a good project manager with sensibility for design takes care of problems that might occur, the ones that couldn’t have been foreseen. He does this in a direct and efficient way and by taking the aesthetics of the design in consideration at all points. In addition he can correct flaws during the construction, enabling the contractor to adjust them before he moves on, saving money for both sides.
I strongly believe in the value of teamwork and thorough preparation. In my opinion it’s a guarantee for a beautiful result and financially feasible plan without unexpected costs.