What makes good design? Commission's Principles help frame civil engineers' approach

The Commission's Design Group collaborated with the Institution of Civil Engineers on a major report on how design is approached in projects

Published: 13 Jul 2021

By: Ben Wilson

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Cover of report on good design in infrastructure by the ICE and NIC

The National Infrastructure Commission’s Design Group has collaborated with the Institution of Civil Engineers on a major report examining the barriers to embedding good design at every stage of infrastructure projects.

In September 2020, the ICE, in collaboration with the Commission’s Design Group, surveyed ICE members to establish how relevant they believed the Commission’s four Design Principles to be to their work, and to discover more about how they perceived their own role in the development of good design.

What makes good design?, published on 13 July 2021, sets out the key findings – including that about 60% of respondents think climate issues are not given enough importance in design; and that while they believed that wherever they were in the project lifecycle they had a responsibility to influence design, respondents also believed the skills to achieve this were lacking.

While the survey responses were being analysed, government announced that it had adopted the Commission’s recommendations on design made in the National Infrastructure Assessment, highlighting the call for a design champion to be appointed on every major infrastructure project.

Based on the survey findings, and input from the Design Group, the ICE has identified recommendations to pursue both for itself and in collaboration with other bodies.

Judith Sykes, the report’s steering group lead, ICE Fellow and NIC Design Group member, said: “In the context of the industry’s net zero aspirations, it may surprise some that climate is regarded as the least addressed design principle within the survey.

“Good design remains critical if we are to use our limited resources to find creative approaches to meeting our carbon reduction targets, deliver on the levelling-up agenda and create healthy communities.

“With a greater understanding of how the principles are understood, this research enables us to improve our strategic decision-making processes and foster a design culture in infrastructure delivery. This requires collaborating with organisations, such as ICE, that are committed to elevating design practice.”

Read the report

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