Article Date: 02/21/2014

Paper Emphasizes the Importance of Controlling the ‘Design Spiral’

By Steve Rizer


“The fundamental key to lean practice across engineering and design teams is to be able to control the design spiral, ensuring that the huge number of design changes are properly managed and shared effectively across the multi-disciplinary team.” This is one of the key points made in a paper that Aveva Group PLC recently released, entitled “Engineering & Design for Lean Construction.”


And what exactly is a design spiral? Aveva described it this way: “As design information is created, it needs to be shared across other design disciplines and across contractual boundaries to make sure that the project progresses to schedule. This process is not a linear sequence by nature; design information does not simply pass to the next team until it is completed. What typically happens is that the information iterates around a number of design teams, all affecting each other’s design. At this stage, much of the data is provisional or based on working assumptions, so changes happen regularly and must be embraced and adapted to. The design process is actually more like a spiral, where information cycles ever closer to a final outcome over a number of passes. We term this the ‘design spiral.’”


As for how design spirals should be controlled, Aveva recommended applying the following principles, among others:

  • All disciplines need to take part. “Integration of this design spiral as a common process across all design disciplines is essential.”
  • Each engineer must see changes quickly. “All engineering information authors and review teams must be able to easily see design changes over time.”
  • Each discipline must be able to compare and update. “The ability to see the work of other disciplines in not enough. To be able to inspect it and then make a selection to update one’s own information is the key to maintaining consistency across disciplines.”

The ConstructionPro Network member version of this article includes additional coverage of the report and provides details about other recent developments involving construction management.



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