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Turning Ideas into a Reality: A Journey into Design Management

by Rhianna Patel, BSc Hons Architectural Technology at De Montfort University student and recent Year-Out Design Manager. London, UK.

Hey Ladies, my name is Rhianna Patel and I’m a 21 year old Final Year BSc Hons Architectural Technology Undergraduate at De Montfort University, Leicester.

I want to be part of a generation that turns ideas into a reality. It’s really the stages in between these that are key. From young, I have always questioned how buildings and infrastructure were made. Although cliche, I would often look out of a car window to see a skyline of cranes.

For me, construction is at the very heart of creating sustainable future cities for generations to come. My goal is to be able to look at a building and feel a sense of accomplishment to say I was part of making this a reality; leaving behind my own a mark on the world.

Sustainability in Design - Why is this important to me?

The construction industry is quite well known as one of the major contributors to emitting harmful emissions. It has come a long way from where it once was and actively looks for ways to become better. My passion for Sustainability lies in knowing there are environmental issues that are more significant to countries like Fiji for example, even though they are one of the lowest contributors. The conservation of resources is vital and a step in the right direction when it comes to tackling the issue of global warming.

The construction of efficient but effective structures and buildings plays a key role in resolving this issue. It is crucial to ensure these are suitable for all types of users whilst also looking at the production and consumption of resources used to allow the building to function effectively and efficiently.

I can see how important sustainability is within the design discipline because of this. For example, exploring active and passive technologies or strategies to limit the energy consumption of a building, instead harnessing more renewable sources of energy or orientating a building to its advantage to let more natural daylight in.

Design Management Career

I always saw myself joining the industry through a civil engineering route, but instead I ended up doing a built environment and construction-based course at a UTC (University Technical College). It wasn't common but had great opportunities to engage with employers and link the theory side into practice side through site visits. I've now found myself doing a degree where I enjoy learning the technical aspects of design whilst incorporating my passion for sustainability. Recently completing a placement as a Year-Out Design Manager with Morgan Sindall Construction was invaluable to my growth and exposed me more to the industry. Design Management isn’t something I saw myself doing by any means but I see that the opportunities and experiences I've taken have paved a different path into construction and I wouldn't change a thing.

During my Year-Out Design Manager experience at Morgan Sindall Construction, I was based on one of their live projects located in London. The project involves the demolition of an existing building and the construction of a new three-storey research and education facility building. Being surrounded by Grade II Listed buildings taught me the kind of site constraints projects encounter.

My role was to closely assist in managing the project’s design and design consultants! I helped to ensure all designs met the client requirements mentioned in the project contract. I also coordinated any specification or layout changes between design consultants. For any project, it is key to ensure there is an effective flow of design information for it to be built live on site! We check over drawings and schedules to specifications and reports to make sure the right amount of detail is provided!

This allows subcontractors to buy materials they need to build on site. Any design information errors can cause increased project costs and time delays on site. Over the course of my placement, my exposure and responsibilities grew and I couldn’t have been more grateful for it. From assisting the Design Manager and other site team members with daily consultants and subcontractors queries to taking an active role in weekly Design Team Meetings and Design Package Workshops with subcontractors! Design subcontractors are businesses who have a design responsibility for a building element, such as the façade (external envelope) or windows. As time went on, I was even able to lead some of these meetings and workshops.

I also assisted our commercial team with formally instructing via our Site Information Management System to the Design Team. I also helped by producing Scope of Work mark-ups and Document Schedules for subcontractor orders. Whilst my role primarily related to design, I also exposed myself to the operations side of things to expand my knowledge. This included QA (Quality Assurance) site walks with the Site Management to check on work such as rebar for the building's structural walls and floor slabs. To do this well I looked at reinforcement drawings produced by the Structural Engineers and the associated bar bending schedules with our Senior Site Manager.

I have built on my technical design knowledge following on from the theory and modelling learnt at university. I have expanded on the ins and outs of a project in more depth; better understanding of the construction industry from a main contractor perspective. Being on site has been beneficial in understanding materials, methods of construction and how this relates to design decisions made. Being able to read and understand the drawings produced from consultants and subcontractors has furthered my knowledge. Reflecting upon my placement in industry, my skills have been significantly developed and I have gained a vast amount of knowledge in a short period of time; in relation to my course in terms of technical knowledge and transferable skills overall.

I have grown in confidence, and this in itself has presented a wide range of opportunities. Networking with a range of people including other employees to broaden my knowledge; honest conversions about their career and the issues facing the industry today.

Actively engaging with organisations such as Construction Youth Trust to hold presentations to more interactive sessions on site as part of our Social Value, it was hugely rewarding to always hear the positive feedback.

I’ve always wanted to help inspire others by challenging the current perceptions, especially for females. The industry is predominantly male dominated, especially on site. However, diversity in construction is also about social mobility and helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those in areas where for them being in construction means they could only go into trades. Young people don’t know that they’re able to climb the career ladder into management positions within the industry. Being a relatable young person myself helps me to build a connection to engage with them further. This prompted me outside of my professional working life to create a personal blog on construction to showcase how great it can be to get into the industry. I believe everyone in the industry should take advantage of social media as a main platform to break the stigma of the industry’s image.

Construction Youth Trust and Morgan Sindall Group: Outreach Day Photos

Now that I’m back at university, I hope to now share more information on different careers by sharing the experiences of those I have met throughout my career journey so far. It’s always inspiring to meet people from all walks of life and different backgrounds. I found in construction there are so many routes into it and career roles available.

There’s more to construction than meets the eye!

Instagram: @lilmissconstruct

LinkedIn: Rhianna Patel

Check out our website below to find out What construction is, the stages of Construction, the various roles involved and routes to get there!:

Check out our HERStories Series to be inspired by some Young Women working across many roles in the industry:

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