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Topics: Construction, Organizational Project Management
What are good practices for design review on contract development?
Based on my experience in project management on rail transit projects, critical skills and activities by project managers are communications with the team, stakeholders, contractors, consultants, technical contributors, projects sponsors and funding partners. On rail transit there is added consideration to the system users/pre-paid customers, system operating personnel, agency oversight, public officials, and communities that are served and impacted by the system.

The effective review of design documents can impact the quality of construction contracts, including specifications and drawings. Coupled with a presentation and review meetings, the input from diverse reviewers can be vetted and focused on the scheduled completion of design deliverables that meet the project plan, project purpose and objective, and the expectations of various project participants and stakeholders.

Unless an Owner has designated staff, the development of technical requirements for construction contracts is usually performed by a design consultant. The Owner identifies the consultant’s scope, deliverables and performance schedule, and establishes the process for Owner representatives to participate with the consultant in developing and reviewing the design deliverables. In order to manage the work, the Owner typically assigns a Project Manager (PM) to monitor the consultant and to ensure project participants complete activities to support a defined project plan, schedule and budget.

Design deliverables typically consist of iterative packages, such as 30%, 60%, 90% and 100% design, that are reviewed and revised before becoming the technical requirements in a construction contract. The content, format and level of detail in the deliverables are defined in the design scope, which is supplemented by the Owner’s design input such as design criteria, standard terms and conditions, model Division I specifications, industry standard specification formats and contract forms, operating standards and rules, and government code and regulations.

During the design process, the consultants will submit the deliverables to the Owner, and the PM will promptly distribute deliverables to a pre-established list of reviewers along with initial assessment/comments. As needed, the PM will provide guidance to the participants in reviewing and returning comments on the deliverables regarding technical compliance, quality and completeness of content, and consistency of format and requirements for integration with other contract components.

In order to facilitate and maintain progress on the design schedule, the PM will compile comments and conduct meeting s to assure the consultant addresses the Owner’s comments in subsequent deliverables through acceptance of the final contract-ready deliverable.

Good Practices for Design Comments
• Use a pre-defined matrix for recording comments and documenting their disposition – with fields for item numbers, reviewer, comment, specification section/page, drawing number.
• Submit comments that are presented in context for action – prefaced by change, delete, replace, verify, confirm
• Complete and provide the comments by the designated due date
• Resolve duplicate or conflicting comments before submitting the comment matrix
• Avoid comments on typos, punctuation and format that can be addressed through word processing or CAD software and administrative processes
• Avoid open-end questions that can be answered through review of design scope or design criteria
• Avoid multiple line item comments for global comments/changes – change “vendor” to “contractor”

TIP: Comments should be measured for appropriateness with the design Scope of Work (SOW) in the contract issued to the consultant for the design work. Comments outside the SOW should be presented to the Owner for disposition, and as needed, the Owner will formally modified the contract, SOW and design criteria.

Good Practices for Design Review Meetings
• Schedule meetings for a date that allows time for attendees to prepare initial comments
• Identify meeting objectives, specify input needed or decisions that are required
• Outline the expected change in content for the next iteration of deliverable
• Clarify design questions and refine the feedback into actionable comments
• Record the meetings, establish action items, and identify comments in the matrix
• Review Lessons Learned on similar contract types with comparable scope

TIP: If the meeting Agenda includes finalizing comments on specific documents or making design decisions, the meeting Announcement should conspicuously indicate the expectation and the appropriate documents distributed with the Announcement.
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Hello Henry,

Thanks for sharing. This is great information, much helpful.


Hey Henry. I agree with Anupam that this is good information. Have you considered submitting it as an article? It would gain a lot more exposure than simply putting it in a discussion thread.
I totally agree with my fellow colleagues. Great information and it would get more exposure if posted as a blog or an article.
Hi Henry,

I don't have such experience as the Owner's PM. I used to be a PM for the contractor who constructed deliverables as per the design documents and technical specifications within the specific time frame and budget limitation.. But your information is valuable to be kept in mind in any general document review comments or meetings. Thank you very much.


Hii Henry

Thank you for sharing

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