Best Practices for Design in Fast-Track Projects

RT-222 Topic Summary
RT 222


Fast-track design-build project delivery has become a standard operating procedure for construction of industrial projects. There is inherent overlap between design, procurement, and construction phases in a typical fast-track project. The design phase is essentially driven by the requirements of the construction phase. In many cases, design and construction phases have more than 90 percent overlap, meaning construction starts when design is as little as 10 percent complete. The procurement process begins concurrently with the design phase. The success of the design phase and the project itself, depend upon the accuracy and timeliness of the information available to the designers from various stakeholders, the efficiency of the flow of information, the participation of all the stakeholders, and the skills of the designers who convert this basic input into drawings and specifications.

The research effort concluded that improvement in design schedule performance in fast track projects is related to the extent of implementation of CII Best Practices of front end planning, change management, constructability, and alignment when the effects of external factors are held constant. With the increase in popularity of the use of offshore design resources and the significant overlap of design, procurement, and construction, research found in the fast track project environment it appears that these low cost centers may not be sufficiently evolved to enable such an integrated team to meet the fast track schedule expectations.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Significant Overlap between Design, Procurement, and Construction

With design, procurement, and construction being executed closely, conflicts arise with the inherently iterative design process because design is now driven by the demands to keep construction flowing smoothly. The designers have to design with incomplete data and are not allowed to go through the loop which involves designing on the basis of assumptions, checking the assumptions later, and revising the design. This results in lack of availability of time to do adequate front end planning, and project execution has to start with a relatively inadequate scope definition (as compared to traditional projects). This often leads to changes in the later stages of the project. The significant overlap between design and construction also requires the design and construction personnel to cooperate early and more closely in the project. The feedback from various stakeholders has to be received in a shorter amount of time in a compressed schedule.

(RR222-11, p. 2)

Reference: (RR222-11)

2 : Challenges to Fast Track Projects

The 6 most commonly faced challenges in managing design in fast track projects were identified as:

  1. Lack of adequate front end planning
  2. Inadequate alignment within and across organizations working together in projects
  3. Scope creep resulting in changes
  4. Getting timely and accurate information from suppliers
  5. Coordination and teamwork within the design team and between organizations
  6. Limited availability of skilled and experienced design work force

The schedule and cost performance of the design phase as well as overall project performance are all impacted by external factors. These external factors include project complexity, regulatory requirements, project team turnover, project team performance, offshore engineering, funding/finance, and others as well.

Solutions used to mitigate these challenges are detailed in the research. (RS222-1, p. v)

Reference: (RS222-1)

3 : Impact of Project Team on Fast Track Performance

Project team experience and turnover have a significant impact on schedule, quality, and accuracy of the design effort. The loss of key engineering personnel adversely affects the design cost and schedule. The table below shows the impact of project team experience and turnover in the fast track projects.

This study revealed that adequate skills were not available within the organizations surveyed that execute design in fast track projects. Solutions to improve project team experience and turnover are provided in the research findings. For example, one solution is to develop a network of trusted design subcontractors and make use of the skill sets available with them.

Reference: (RS222-1)

4 : Key CII Best Practices

Improvement in design schedule performance in fast track projects is related to the extent of implementation of CII Best Practices of front end planning, change management, constructability, and alignment. This research indicates that adequate front end planning (FEP) is one of the most critical best practices for the success of design in fast track projects and that more time being allocated for FEP is beneficial. (RS222-1, p. 10)

Reference: (RS222-1)

5 : Related Implementation Tools

This research references the following implementation tools from other CII related research:

  • IR163-2, Onsite Design Tool for Project Planning
  • IR113-2, PDRI: Project Definition Rating Index Industrial Projects
  • IR155-2, PDRI: Project Definition Rating Index Building Projects
  • IR268-2, PDRI: Project Definition Rating Index Infrastructure Projects
  • SP34-1, Constructability Implementation Guide
  • IR113-3, Alignment During Pre-Project Planning: A Key to Project Success
  • SP43-1, Project Change Management
Reference: (IR163-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved quality (reduced errors & omissions), Improved engineering productivity

Research Publications

Best Practices for Design in Fast-Track Projects - RR222-11

Publication Date: 04/2008 Type: Research Report Pages: 165 Status: Reference

Best Modern Practices for Design in Fast Track Projects - RS222-1

Publication Date: 08/2007 Type: Research Summary Pages: 23 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Plenary Session - Successful Design in Fast Track Projects

Publication Date: 07/2007 Presenter: Number of Slides: 13 Event Code: AC07

Implementation Session - Successful Design in Fast Track Projects

Publication Date: 07/2007 Presenter: Number of Slides: 33 Event Code: AC07

Session - Fast-pace Project Design

Publication Date: Presenter: Number of Slides: 25 Event Code: PIW1110

Session - Ensure Success-Remember the Past

Publication Date: Presenter: Number of Slides: 56 Event Code: PIW1110