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In the realm of construction, the synergy between design and execution is pivotal for the successful completion of any project. However, a growing concern in the industry is the disconnect between permanent works design and construction methodology. This article delves into the disadvantages of early contractor engagement in the permanent works design process, exploring the reasons behind this disconnect and proposing solutions to bridge the gap.

The Ivory Tower Syndrome in Permanent Works Design

A significant issue in the construction industry is the 'Ivory Tower' approach of many permanent works designers. These designers often create plans and specifications without considering the practical aspects of construction. This disconnect stems from a lack of communication and collaboration between designers and contractors, leading to designs that are challenging, if not impossible, to execute on-site.

The Pitfalls of Design and Build Contracts

The current trend in construction contracts exacerbates this issue. Many projects operate under 'design and build' contracts, which do not encourage early contractor engagement. In these scenarios, the design phase is completed before contractors are even involved, depriving the design process of valuable insights from those with hands-on construction experience. This approach often results in designs that are not optimized for practical construction methods.

The Underestimation of Temporary Works

Another contributing factor is the inadequate emphasis on temporary works in engineering education. Most degree courses focus predominantly on permanent works design, with only a cursory glance at temporary structures like tower cranes or piling rigs. This educational gap leaves a void in understanding how permanent designs are brought to life on the construction site.

The Experience Divide: Design Office vs. Construction Site

The career paths of engineering graduates typically bifurcate into design office roles or on-site construction positions. This separation creates a chasm between theory and practice. Designers, often with little to no on-site experience, lack a practical understanding of construction realities. Conversely, site engineers, with limited exposure to the design process, may not appreciate the complexities and constraints of design work.

Proposed Solutions

Encouraging Cross-Disciplinary Experience: One solution is to promote cross-disciplinary experiences. Encouraging designers to spend time on construction sites and vice versa can foster a better understanding of each other's challenges and constraints. A secondment of six months to a year could provide invaluable insights into the practicalities of construction, which can then be integrated into more realistic and feasible designs.

Revising Educational Curriculums: Engineering education should place greater emphasis on temporary works and the practical aspects of bringing designs to life. This change would equip future engineers with a more holistic understanding of the construction process.

Enhancing Collaboration in Contract Structures: Revising contract structures to promote early contractor engagement can bridge the gap between design and construction. This approach would allow for contractor input during the design phase, ensuring that designs are practical and buildable from the outset.

Implementing Integrated Project Delivery (IPD): Adopting IPD models can foster collaboration among all stakeholders from the project's inception. This method ensures that architects, engineers, contractors, and clients work together throughout the project lifecycle, leading to designs that are both innovative and practical.


The disconnect between permanent works design and construction methodology is a multifaceted issue that requires a collaborative and integrated approach to resolve. By fostering cross-disciplinary experiences, revising educational curriculums, enhancing collaboration in contract structures, and implementing integrated project delivery models, the construction industry can ensure that designs are not only innovative but also practical and feasible to construct. Bridging this gap is essential for the timely, cost-effective, and successful completion of construction projects.

Bridging the Gap: Aligning Permanent Works Design with Construction Realities