Every successful construction project begins with a good design. If mistakes are made during the planning phase of a project, profitability suffers—sometimes drastically if the issue isn’t caught until much later in the construction process. Faulty or incomplete designs lead to costly rework, budget increases, and scheduling delays.
For most customers, the visual aesthetics and practical functionality of a completed project are equally important, and it can be difficult for designers to find the right balance between the two. No one is perfect, and despite best efforts they may make accidental errors, especially when the design of a structure is particularly complex or clients request several custom elements.
Keeping the following information in mind can help construction professionals avoid mistakes and create error-free designs that are both functional and visually appealing.
Common design problems in the construction industry
Identifying common design problems is the first step to avoiding them. Most frequently, design errors stem from a lack of clarity, miscalculations, and missing information.
Designs for most projects are incredibly complicated. Blueprints aren’t just visual plans for the exterior or interior architecture of a building or structure, they also determine the layout for the practical elements, like electricity and plumbing, and they contain all the exact measurements needed for implementation.
Additionally, there may be multiple designers or design teams working on the same project, all who have their own unique communication styles. This complexity leaves plenty of room for error.
While there are numerous other reasons designs may be incorrect or incomplete, below are some of the most frequent construction design issues.
Mechanical design errors
Incorrect and inconsistent scaling - When the unit of measurement or scale used across different design blueprints isn’t consistent, this leads to confusion and construction errors.
Missing or incorrect information - Designers may forget to include critical information or miscalculate important measurements.
Miscommunication - Some designers may use symbols or abbreviations that are eventually misinterpreted by other members of the construction team.
Electrical design errors
Missing electrical panels and devices - Some designers may not include elements like electrical panels in blueprints. This can cause issues if space for panels, circuits, and other electrical equipment needs to be created later.
Electrical circuits not sized correctly - Designers may not size circuits correctly when they don’t have enough information about the kind of electrical load the finished structure will need to handle.
Structural design errors
Missing necessities - Designers may neglect to include fire panels, IT closets, lighting fixtures, and other necessary structural and practical elements in their designs. If construction begins before these errors are corrected, rework may be required to accommodate these crucial features.
Impractical spaces - Without oversight, some designers may accidentally include competing features—like doors that open up into each other—in their designs. Or, some spaces may be undersized or oversized for their desired functions.
Missing plumbing elements - Design documents often do not show all piping, valves, drains, and plumbing fixtures, or may not add enough space to accommodate them later.
How to reduce errors based on design problems
While designers can do their best to avoid errors, it's not always possible. Once you are aware of the most common construction design issues, you can take additional steps to make sure project plans can be effectively and safely completed. It’s not just the designer’s responsibility to ensure a design is error-free. The entire construction team should make an effort to identify potential design issues and correct them as soon as possible.
Familiarize yourself with building codes
There are various legal requirements for every type of construction project based on location. It is important that all designs meet the specified legal criteria, which may apply to building size, material usage, functional features, and many other factors.
Construction companies must carefully review and understand all building codes and zoning laws before creating their designs, or they risk getting permits denied and failing inspections.
Conduct detailed field surveys
Construction companies should thoroughly survey the site of a project before drafting designs. Detailed review is often the only way to ensure a design is feasible for the environment.
The site itself can inform materials used, building dimensions, and other important design decisions.
Maintain consistent communication with your team
Good, consistent communication solves many potential problems on the jobsite, including errors with designs.
When a designer has open communication with customers, internal stakeholders, and field crews, they reduce the risk of design errors and give themselves plenty of opportunities to correct mistakes before they greatly impact work on the jobsite.
Likewise other stakeholders like superintendents, project managers, and operations managers should practice good communication. They should review designs before they are sent to the field for implementation. They should also ensure field contractors understand construction plans and customers have realistic expectations.
Employ modern management tools to monitor contractors and subcontractors
Modern technology has significantly improved construction reporting processes over the years. Pen and paper reports and verbal communications lead to misinterpretation and misunderstandings. Digital daily reports help reduce errors and increase visibility for the entire construction team.
Better visibility means more eyes on each part of the project, including designs and how they are being implemented. Progress through each stage of the project can be carefully monitored and compared to plans onsite via digital documentation.
When specialty work is being completed by electrical contractors or mechanical contractors for example, digital reports help them stay more closely in contact with designers, project managers, and other stakeholders than traditional reporting methods. Using mobile devices to capture data and upload it to cloud storage, they can easily record their day to day work onsite and share it with others in real time. Any missing information or impractical design elements can be caught and corrected as early as possible.
Ensure your staff receives proper training
Conducting frequent toolbox talks dedicated to successful design implementation and ensuring staff has the proper training teaches them the skills they need to be proactive when it comes to catching design mistakes. The more informed your field crew is about the entire construction process, the better they will be able to understand when a design should be updated.
Train your staff to closely review scale and ensure designs contain all the information they need to safely and efficiently complete their tasks before they start working.
Utilize up-to-date project tracking software
Project managers can help ensure design errors do not lead to disputes or change orders by monitoring progress. Detailed production tracking helps them stay on top of what’s happening each day on site. As soon as there is a delay, they can address it quickly and request design changes if necessary.
How Raken improves your design process
Raken's digital reporting tools improve documentation and help your team better manage construction work. You'll more easily and quickly be able to compare day-to-day progress with original design plans and prevent minor design issues from developing into disputes or change orders down the line.
Schedule a demo to see how Raken can help you increase project visibility and customer satisfaction.