Not on-boarding your technical advisors during design development?

At TTM Consulting, we know that our role as technical advisors in traffic, acoustics, waste and data services is not simply to enable an approval or to meet legislative requirements. Our role is to work with the client and the client’s team to deliver outcomes that are relevant, functional and leave an enduring positive legacy in terms of both deliverables and the experience of working with us.

In our experience, we find that developers that choose not to on-board their technical consultants early during the concept and design development stages will often pay for it in detailed design and construction through re-work, modifications or contract variations.

The value of technical specialists is to problem solve collaboratively to achieve the best outcomes for the development, and the community that the development sits within. At TTM, we focus on making the development work, and understand that by delivering the development, we are leaving a legacy in built form that will need to contribute to the local environment and be lived in or used by people for decades to come.

It is important to be mindful that developments are complex projects and to get great outcomes is about more than ticking boxes or simply meeting code. The advisors on your project should understand this and be on focused more than the codes or guidelines.

Quality advisors proactively work to understand the drivers and motivations of not just the client and their needs, but the decision-makers in the regulatory environment, and the multi-disciplinary advisors in the team. By gaining this understanding, quality technical advisors will leverage this to inform their advice and achieve better outcomes – and we know this at TTM. We also understand the commercial drivers for a project, and how, for example, if a strict application of a standard will not function or be feasible; we will investigate alternatives to find a solution that works from a functional, commercial and regulatory perspective.

We generally see two approaches to development, depending on how the business is structured and the scale and complexity of a project; either:

  1. Outcome focus – in this approach, we see developers engage their specialist consultants at the early design stages to collaboratively work through issues and reduce risk prior to a Development Application (DA). The focus is on delivering performance-based outcomes; or
  2. Approval focus – with this approach, we see development teams engage specialists once the time comes to submit a DA with the focus on securing an approval over a legacy-driven development outcome.

The Approval focus approach

The Approval approach goes something like this:

  • Client engages the architect to develop a concept design (often this design is not intended to be the built design);
  • Architect develops design to DA stage and gains core technical inputs for impact assessments (structural, services, traffic) with the objective of achieving an approval;
  • Post-Approval, the client may re-engage existing or engage a new suite of technical advisors to develop a design for a modified approval (this is the design that is intended to be built);
  • Technical advisors coordinate with the architects/builder to finalise the design; and
  • Technical advisors provide technical and compliance services through the construction and occupation stages.

The attraction of this approach is that a large portion of costs are delayed to when there is a greater level of certainty which may work from a funding perspective. However, apart from losing value from early coordination and risk identification by technical consultants, the savings may be lost due to the level of variations required by consultants to appropriately deal with complex design issues. We have found that there is often a lot of complexity that is discovered after the technical advisors are engaged which may result in significant scope creep, or additional time spent coordinating between disciplines which all adds cost to the bottom line.

The Outcome focus approach

The Outcomes focus goes something like this:

  • Client engages architect and other core consultants including structural, services, traffic, waste, acoustics and planning to collaboratively provide design and technical advice on the early design, including pre-concept and concept;
  • The approach is to design-out potential risks at detail stage and to develop a DA strategy for the approach to Council/other authorising body considering knowledge about foreseeable issues and risks;
  • Technical advisors can join the client and other consultants at any pre-DA meetings with Council to proactively resolve concerns while developing strong relationships;
  • The design is updated progressively to respond to identified risks to achieve strong performance outcomes;
  • Approval granted (more likely, as there has been more work to proactively respond to issues early);
  • Post-Approval, the client may re-engage existing or engage a new suite of technical advisors to develop the detailed design; and
  • Technical advisors provide technical and compliance services through the construction and occupation stages.

Often the Outcome focus approach is a necessity due to regulatory requirements, however, in our view it is good practice to engage key advisors early to work together and solve problems. Although it may take a small additional investment, the outcomes and reductions in risk speak for themselves.

Luckily, we see that a large proportion of the industry are in the Outcome Focus camp, especially for higher value or complex projects, which means that good outcomes are being driven and prepared for at the strategic stage that act as enablers through the detailed design and construction stages.

Of course, these approaches need to be tailored based on the specific needs of a development. Especially for very small developments, additional investment is not necessarily going to yield a better performance outcome when the risk profile is so low.

Coordination is key

One of the key skills required as development occurs in our urban fabric is coordination. Not just coordination within a project team or across disciplines, but even to the scale of coordinating with adjacent or nearby developments.

At TTM, we can offer technical advisors in traffic engineering, acoustics, waste services consulting and data collection. While each of these disciplines will offer value and great outcomes, that is magnified when we are working together on the same project.