Application Of Prevention Through Design Construction Essay

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Higher fatality rates, billions of dollar cost in medical, law suits and in compensation, waste of working hours, reputation of firm, low morals of co-workers and various reasons put construction worker safety into core attention to many in the industry.

Prevention through Design (PtD) is the effort taken in design stage to reduce the construction safety hazards up to the acceptable level. Studies have shown that every dollar spent on a good safety program can result in a four to eight dollar reduction in losses from accidents. Design stage is the right time where safety precautions taken have the high impact on construction accidents.

On the other hand designers are facing barriers in implementing PtD concept into design. Lack of design tools is one of the main reasons. This study will propose a conceptual framework for the application of PtD concept into design process by studying the design process, factors affecting the design process and general practice of addressing safety into design.

The methodology adopted for the study is reviewing the relevant literature and confirming the data field interviews and questioners. This study is expected to develop a framework for designers on the bases of theoretical and field data.

The framework will help designer to implement PtD concept safety into design process by identifying safety design review process, involvement of stakeholders in design process.

Key Words: Prevention through Design, Design Process,

Postgraduate Student, MSc Construction Management, Faculty of Civil Engineering, UTM

2 Assoc. Prof. Department of Construction Management, Faculty of Civil Engineering, UTM


Introduction and Background:

Human nature is difficult to change; therefore, instead of trying to persuade people (workers) not to make a mistake, we (as designer, owner) should accept people (worker) as we find them and try to remove opportunities for errors by changing the work situations, that is, the plant or equipment design or the method of working. Alternatively, we can mitigate the consequences of error or provide opportunities for recovery (F. A. Manuele, 1999, B).

A second thought can be made from above statement, to remind designer and engineers of some of the quirks of human nature so that it can better address and allow flexibility for them in design (F. A. Manuele, 1999, B).

There is consensus among the all design and construction professionals that the design affects the cost, quality and duration of a construction project, so it makes some sense that the design can affects the inherent risk to the workers constructing the project.

Studies have shown that the decision taken on design stage can cause a significant number of accidents and resulting injuries. The design impact on safety is evident, so the potential benefits of implementation of safety concept are significant (Gambatese, 2005). A study conducted in UK, found more than 42% of 224 fatality accident cases could be prevented by changes in the permanent design features (Gibb et al, 2004). It gives the opportunity to the designers to implement the PtD concept into design and save minor and major injuries (Gambatese, 2005).

Problem Statement:

Not considering safety of construction and maintenance workers seems unethical and raises a host of ethical questions for designers. Do not design professionals have the same duties for construction and maintenance workers as for the public? Are construction workers a less important group of people than the collective general public? Do not design professionals have ethical duties for reasonably minimizing all of the risks that they have control over, not just the risks that they are unlikely to be sued over?

The safety of the public is given such a prominent position in the codes of ethics because it is recognized the public lacks the detailed technical knowledge of risks associated with structures that design professionals possess. Can design professionals state with certainty that construction workers possess the same set of technical knowledge and understanding of the risks associated with exposure to fall, physical forces, electricity and chemicals as do design professionals? These issues suggest that a designer who is not willing to consider design decisions that could reduce the inherent risks to construction workers to a reasonable level is not committed to maximizing the social equity of a project.

The diffusion of PtD has been hampered by several practical factors. Research shows that designers (those who are aware of the PtD concept) want to implement it into design. But due to lack of guidelines, safety tools, process and procedures barriers (i.e., lack of a standardized approach, and undefined structures for tasks and hazards), difficulty in determining the stage of design review, check lists, best practice, identifying the responsible person to address, how to identify the construction hazards, knowledge and information barriers, etc, are the main hurdles faced by the designers. (Gambatese; 2005, M. Behm; 2008, M. Gangolells, 2010).

This is because designers don't have the formal training of safety and lack of construction experience (Gambatese, 2005). And also addressing the safety of construction workers into design is not an inherent objective of a design process.

It shows that designers are seriously lacking in safety design tools and safety design process, which can be customized by type of firm, by the firm size and also should consider the procurement method adopted for the project.

Aims and Objective of Study:

The barriers impacting the PtD concept implementation into design can be addressed by developing a framework of PtD concept implementation into design process and making it an integral part of design objectives.

The aim of this study is to propose a conceptual framework for designer for the implementation of PtD concept into design process. This will help designers to address construction worker's safety into design process and will enhance the integration of different project stakeholders. This integration of various professionals will also enhance the decision making at the early stages of project to select the effective design within the cost, time and quality parameters of project and reducing the construction hazards into an acceptable level.

1.3.1 Objectives of Study:

The objectives of this study are follows:

To study the architecture design process.

To study the factors affecting the design process.

To develop a conceptual framework for the implementation of PtD into design process.

Research Scope and Limitations:

This study will only focus the safety precautions in the design stage by identifying, eliminating, substituting and reducing construction hazards up to acceptable level. The safety precautions and procedures taken during the construction stage is not scope of this study. Where ever the term construction workers are mentioned, it means the workers involved during the project execution and maintenance of the building.

The area chosen for this study is Pakistan. The design process studied for this study is limited to the current practice of architectural design practice in Pakistan only. Testing and finding the acceptance level of framework in the field are not scope of this study.

Importance of Study:

Traditionally designer don't consider responsible for the safety of construction worker and construction accidents. The designer's involvement in reducing the number of construction accidents is important. It cannot be achieved without the active involvement of design team, who actually design some of the root causes of construction accidents.

The framework will help designers to identify the roles and responsibilities, hazard identification process, information sharing, output of each design activity and also help in monitoring and controlling the safety design process.

Jim Howe (2008) and Gambatese (2005) listed some of the outcome of the successful implementation of PtD concept in design:

Improving construction worker safety by reducing injuries and illness.

Controlling project cost, quality, constructability, schedule, etc

Completed facility characteristics: design features, operability, operator safety, maintainability, etc

Design firm liability, productivity, profitability, etc and

High worker's moral (accidents and injuries decrease the moral)

Reduction in compassion cost.

Significant reduction in accidents, injuries, illness, damage to environment and their attendant costs.

Productivity will be improved by reducing the rework

Reduction in operating cost and environmental harm.

Time loses in design correction and queries can be reduced.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Definition of PtD:

Literature review identified that PtD definition developed by US NIOSH is widely used and accepted, which states:

"Addressing the occupational safety and health needs in the design and redesign process to prevent or minimize the work-related hazards and risks associated with the construction, manufacturing, use, maintenance, and disposal of facilities, material and equipment". (F.A. Manuele, 2008)

This very broad definition covers all the building life cycle from designing and redesigning, construction to disposal of not only building but also material and equipment used in the building.

2.2 The Design Process:

The design process is the iteration process; all the activities are interconnected and dependent on each other. Design process can be simply defined as the way the design is carried out in the firm from inception to detailed design. Every firm can have their unique design process which they developed over the years from the experience and the environment in which they are working and the technological capabilities the firm possessed.

2.2.3 Architectural Design Process Models:

There are many design development models developed over the years. The literature reviews shows the every model focuses on certain phases more than others. Some of them are very old not updated and revised with the introduction of new technologies, procurements methods and changing concept of design and buildings; their applicability is limited in current high tech scenario than others whish are timely updated and revised. Few of the models (i.e. BAA Project Process (1995), Salford Process Protocol (1998), etc are used by only few number of designers in a certain area are not widely accepted at large. Due to these above mentioned reasons RIBA Plan of Works (1969, revised 2007) is selected for the study.

2.2.4 RIBA Plan of Works (2007):

RIBA Plan of Works (1969, last revised in Nov. 2008) developed some 43 years ago is still widely used and accepted by the large number of designers around the world. Revisions and updates help RIBA Plan of Work to accommodate all the changes in management, construction methodology and techniques, business, procurement and technology, while remaining succinct and retaining its core structure and flexibility. This makes it applicable to design/construction firm in industry. (RIBA Green Overlay 2011, B. Lawson 2003).

RIBA Plan of Works (2008) identifies five processes and eleven work stages. Work stages are the activities carried out in the process. The type of procurement method selected will guide the process to run concurrently or sequentially. In case of fast-track contractual agreement, some of the work stages may run concurrently, rather than sequentially. Procurement method will also suggest the involvement of constructor and other associates at work stages.

Two out of five processes of RIBA Plan of Works (2008) are related to design, third process related to Tendering 4th process is of construction or project execution, and final process is related to post occupation reviews.

Table: 2.1 RIBA Plan of Works (2008) Bar Chart


Work Stage





Design Brief



Design Development

Technical Design

2.3 The factors affecting the Design Process:

Design is not carried out in vacuum; it has a unique environment unlike the construction. It is dependent on some positive and negative factors. Positive factors can be described as critical factors for success and negative factors are the berries for the success. The more the complex design is, the more factors are involved in it.

The research shows that these factors are not same for all the stakeholders involved in project. Owners, architect, designers as well as contractors have their own objectives and criteria for measuring success. For example, aesthetic is often considered more important by the architects rather than building cost as the main criterion for success (Dina Koutsikouri, 2008). And also this research shows that success factors within the organization are not same. Management's success factors may differ from the junior architect or CAD technicians. Success factors also very project to project and project delivery method. It is difficult to identify the CSF which can be applied to all projects. Dina (2008) summarized CSF into four groups as following: Management Issues, Design Team Issues, Competencies and Resources and Project Enablers

3.0 Research Methodology

The research methodology covers the identification of problem and scope of study at the first phase. Finalization of area for the study is based on the importance of study, personal interest, previous experience of author and discussions with expert people in the field. This is done by studying case studies, previous projects, journals and articles. Second phase leads to establishing the objectives for study and literature review. Objectives were identified by reviewing literature, discussion with supervisor.

Data collection will be the third phase. Field data will be collected from selected area of study by interviewing and questioners. And final fourth phase will be of data analysis and conclusion and recommendations. Collected data will be analyzed to develop a conclusion of the study.

Expected Findings:

The study is expected to propose a conceptual framework for the implementation of PtD concept into design process, based on theoretically and filed work. It will be done by identifying the design process and factors affecting the design process from literature review and confirming the findings from interviews and questioners from field work.