Ensuring drawings are without major errors and align with the project scope is a critical element of the project delivery process. That is why a design review process needs to be incorporated into the project development to enable the owner and Cambridge team members to participate.


Roles and Goals
When developing the project schedule, time should be set aside for defined design reviews. That way, the actual schedule will reflect what is needed for a good end product. Typically, reviews should occur at the 50%/90% or 30%/60%/90% timelines, which relies on the project size, duration, and complexity. Depending on the client, you should plan on the reviews to be concurrent between the owner and Cambridge teams or run sequential, with the Cambridge reviews occurring first and then being distributed to the owner. The advantage of the sequential review is that the owner can see what has been noted by the Cambridge team, which may help them come up with better questions upon their review. The Design Project Manager (DPM) should generate review guidance for every reviewer role [Owner, DPM, Estimator, Construction Project Manager (CPM), etc.] for what the parameters of their review should be.

For example, the owner would not necessarily need to perform a detailed constructability review but should weigh in on the finished schedule as well as the furniture plan. The more detailed and specific the reviewer parameters are, the more detailed the reviews can be. In addition to the reviewer parameters, there should be goals set for each review milestone. The 50% (or 30%/60%) review(s) would need to be more general and focused on drawing concepts, while the 90% can be more technical and focused on details and drawing execution. The primary takeaway should be that the reviews should be an integral part of the design process and that by clearly defining the roles and goals for each review, more valuable and focused feedback will be generated.

There are many ways to gather design review information including hand notes and in-person page turns. While there is no objectively right or wrong way to execute drawing reviews, Cambridge has utilized the process of distributing PDFs to each reviewer with instructions for them to the red line (or mark up) the document and return it when complete; allowing a week for the drawing review. Upon receipt of the feedback from all the reviewers, the comments are combined into one master review document. This document is then reviewed for clarity and sent on to the design sub-consultants to make the necessary and discussed changes. The final reviewed feedback document can be distributed to all the reviewers for their reference or stored on a network/shared drive. Before the next set of drawings is issued or the next meeting for drawing review is set up with the Owners, the DPM should review to confirm all comments from the reviewers are incorporated into the updated plan set, where appropriate.

There is (unfortunately) no such thing as a perfect set of drawings. The main goal of this process is to get as much meaningful feedback returned to the designers and included in the plan sets. By incorporating design reviews into the project delivery process, defining who should be performing the reviews, and what they should be looking for, we can improve the final product as much as is practical. The team approach is what is critical to making the design review process work toward a better final construction project.

Evan Williams – Design Project Manager