Design for change

When a building needs to be both new and different, then the design process needs to be a change process.

Design for Change

How can a building project inspire and support people to change? We know that space shapes behaviour, but buildings will only transform organisations if people have first shaped the vision and are ready for the impact of the new environment.

The process to deliver a new building is expensive, complicated and full of risk. Project delivery teams are assembled to manage and minimise those risks. Even good project managers engage with stakeholders with a “need to know” mindset.

The project champions who are stewards of change recognise that a new building’s objectives must be co-created. That they must infuse every aspect of the organisation. That the conversations about why we need to change, and what direction we’re heading in, must come before the project exists, be on a “need to share” basis , and continue long after the building is handed over.

DEGW founder Frank Duffy memorably said that a building is a low frequency 24/7 transmitter of who’s who and what matters. A new building that embodies a strategy for being different is a step change for all stakeholders. When this kind of building is the product of iterative engagement with people about what needs to change, and how that should be realised, then the design process is as powerful a tool as the built environment.

My global colleagues at DEGW specialised in design for change. Working with them taught me how to be involved with a client well before, and long after the building architect was on the job. The scope of work goes beyond conventional architectural services in order to:

  • Help property managers argue for the better appreciation of the potential performance of their assets – when executives understand the risks of not addressing that gap, the business case is clear;
  • Translate the leadership team’s aspirations and strategies into design principles – providing a framework that can be objectively and progressively tested;
  • Create future scenarios that seed further conversations about new systems, practices and policies which means that all parts of the organisation can begin the work of renewal that aligns with the building;
  • Progressively involve everyone in the organisation on new ways of working and learning which builds understanding through engagement, over “need-to-know” communications.

When planning, briefing and design come together, the building project is a game changer.

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First published on the WATAC blog, February 27, 2023 The…

    The Soft Build is a strategy consultancy that helps people use buildings as a scaffold for organisational change.

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