Improving the Architectural Process
Amanda Mewborn of Perkins+Will shares a Lean exercise that will be used to improve the architectural process and integrate client operations into the process
In my last post, I talked about hurrying creativity. Last week, I had the opportunity to collaborate with two architects to further understand the architectural process, redesign it to improve efficiency and quality, and integrate client operations and efficiency into the process. In this post, I’ll be sharing a few details about this Lean exercise, often called a Kaizen. Note that I am not an architect, and my descriptions of the architectural process are simplified based on my limited understanding.
The Traditional Architectural Process
The traditional architectural process can be summarized in six phases:
- Master Planning – converting the organization’s strategic plan into a plan for how the facilities will grow and change to support the strategy
- Space Programming – figuring out how much space is needed based on current capacity and work volumes and projections of future work volumes
- Schematic Design – developing the first pass of the building design pieces, such as department locations, standard rooms, the shape and positioning of the building on the land site
- Design Development – builds further on schematic design by defining the building features in more detail, such as department shapes, interior finishes, and landscaping
- Construction Documents – converting all of the details from design development into detailed instructions for the contractor to build the facility; this step involves putting all of the details “into the computer.”
- Construction Administration – monitoring construction progress to ensure that the building is being built according to the plan
First, the team identified the high-level tasks that take place in each of the six phases, assuming that we would be building a new 100-bed hospital. The team wrote each task on a sticky note, and put it on a board, with each combination of sticky note color and marker color indicating a phase. Traditionally, each phase must be completed in sequence, meaning that schematic design does not begin until space programming is completed, for example.
Next, we used fishbone diagrams to identify the failure points and root causes of the failures in each phase of the traditional architectural process.
Next, the team looked at trends across the fishbone diagrams, and identified some common problems that plague the traditional architectural process.
The New Lean Architectural Process
Next, the team laid out three foam core boards on the table, and detailed each week in the architectural process across the top (using sticky notes with numbers). Then, the team began pulling the sticky notes of tasks from the traditional architectural process and placing them on the weeks when they could happen in the new process.
The team kept in mind the common issues with the traditional architectural process, and worked to mitigate those issues by integrating the tasks where possible. The traditional six phases of the architectural process were ignored, and instead, the team thought about what tasks could be done at the same time. What emerged was a board that looked less like a rainbow, and more like a smattering of color boxes amongst the board.
Additionally, the team identified Lean tools that could be utilized throughout the process. These tools were built into the new architectural process. Tools such as Kaizen, process mapping and simulation were incorporated. The concept of operationally driven design was obvious as design tasks were moved on the board based on when operational information would be available.
The new process would not only shorten the amount of time needed to complete the architectural tasks, it would also incorporate the client’s operations, or planning into the process. Additionally, fewer meetings would be needed with the client, as the team would be integrated into meetings together.
In the traditional architectural process, there is lots of rework, as each phase has a kick-off and meetings that end up invalidating some of the work completed in the previous phase. Since the phases were designed to no longer take place in sequence, and instead were completed together and simultaneously, there was less rework and duplication of efforts. The new process should have fewer changes to the design late in the process, providing for more accurate budgeting as well.
The team plans to test the newly designed process on an upcoming project with a hospital client.
Amanda Mewborn, RN, CPN, CPHIMS, PMC, DSHS is a senior healthcare consultant with Perkins+Will where she assists clients with improving operational efficiency, patient experience, and quality.