Execution of Systems Design

The basic traditional design procedure, which has been widely used for many years, and commonly used variations of it have resulted in many excellent buildings. It needs improvement, however, because clients cannot be certain that its use gives the best value for the money or that the required performance could not have been attained at lower cost. The uncertainty arises because historically:

1. Actual construction costs often exceed low bids or negotiated prices, because of design changes during construction; unanticipated delays during construction, which increase costs; and unforeseen conditions, such as unexpectedly poor subsurface conditions that make excavation and foundation construction more expensive.

2. Construction, operation, or maintenance costs are higher than estimated, because of design mistakes or omissions.

3. Separation of design and construction into different specialties leads to underestimated or overestimated construction costs and antagonistic relations between designers and builders.

4. Construction costs are kept within the client’s budget at the expense of later higher operating, maintenance, and repair costs.

5. Coordination of the output of architects and consultants is not sufficiently close for production of an optimum building for the client’s actual needs.

One objective of systems design is to correct these defects. This can be done while retaining the desirable features of traditional procedures, such as development of building design in stages, with progressively more accurate cost estimates and frequent client review. Systems design therefore should at least do the following:

1. Question the cost effectiveness of proposed building components and stimulate generation of lower-cost alternatives that achieve the required performance. This can be done by incorporating value engineering in systems design.

2. More closely coordinate the work of various design specialists and engage building construction and operation experts to assist in design.

3. Take into account both initial and life-cycle costs.

4. Employ techniques that will reduce the number of design mistakes and omissions that are not discovered until after construction starts.

Systems Design Procedure.

Systems design is the application of the scientific method to selection and assembly of components or subsystems to form the optimum system to attain specified goals and objectives while subject to given constraints and restrictions.

Systems design of buildings, in addition to correcting defects in traditional design, must provide answers to the following questions:

1. What does the client actually want the building to accomplish (goals, objectives, and associated criteria)?

2. What conditions exist, or will exist after construction, that are beyond the designers’ control?

3. What requirements for the building or conditions affecting system performance does design control (constraints and associated standards)?

4. What performance requirements and time and cost criteria can the client and designers use to appraise system performance?

Collection of information necessary for design of the building starts at the inception of design and may continue through the contract documents phase. Data collection is an essential part of systems design but because it is continuous throughout design it is not listed as one of the basic steps.

For illustrative purposes, the systems design procedure is shown resolved into nine basic steps in Fig. 1.10. Because value analysis is applied in step 5, steps 4 through 8 covering synthesis, analysis, and appraisal may be repeated several times. Each iteration should bring the design closer to the optimum.

In preparation for step 1, the designers should secure a building program and information on existing conditions that will affect building design. In step 1, the designers use the available information to define goals to be met by the system.


These state what the building is to accomplish, how it will affect the environment and other systems, and how other systems and the environment will affect the building. Goals should be generalized but brief statements, encompassing all the design objectives. They should be sufficiently specific, however, to guide generation of initial and alternative designs and control selection of the best alternative.

A simple example of a goal is: Design a branch post-office building with 100 employees to be constructed on a site owned by the client. The building should harmonize with neighbouring structures. Design must be completed within 90 days and construction within 1 year. Construction cost is not to exceed $500,000.

When systems design is applied to a subsystem, goals serve the same purpose as for a system. They indicate the required function of the subsystem and how it affects and is affected by other systems.


With the goals known, the designers can advance to step 2 and define the system objectives. These are similar to goals but supply in detail the requirements that the system must satisfy to attain the goals.


FIGURE 1.10 Basic steps in systems design in addition to collection of necessary information.

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