Errors in Electrical Design increase the liabilities your business faces and can be costly in both financial terms and also in lost time and lost future contracts.
Most contractors have made a sizeable mistake at some point and dealt with the consequences. Those who haven’t are almost certain to do so at some point in the future unless they examine their own business activities and plan for quality.
In order to protect businesses, as BSRIA say, “Design errors and omissions should be prevented or identified during the design process. All design errors identified subsequently are costly in time, rework and, potentially, in lost reputation and increased future PII premiums.” [i]
So what can electrical designers do to reduce the chance of this happening and to reduce the liabilities their businesses face?
Here are 5 things to think about:
1. Apply full rigour to alternative designs
The nature of construction in the UK means that design activities happen concurrently with a number of disciplines working independently on their aspects of the design. Iteration is an essential part of achieving a final design. It is important that a full design review is carried out for each iteration however minor.
Contractors and members of other trades frequently put requests to consultants to change designs, often to fix problems for other trades or contractors. It can be tempting to help people out by accepting their proposed changes but doing this without fully reviewing your initial design in light of the changes can increase your own liabilities.
Apply the same rigour to all alterations made to your designs that you would to new designs.
2. Focus on your client’s interests
Your client, with whom you have a contract, should always be present when you meet with the employer on a project. It may seem quicker and easier to meet directly with the employer at times, however this can again open you up to increased liability and may affect the quality of the overall installation.
It may be the case that your client has made agreements with the employer that affect your design that you are not aware about. In extreme cases this could end up costly as you may be liable for any damage or loss associated with the design change.
Involve your client in all discussions with the employer.
3. Build in consistent, project specific redundancy
Make sure that redundancy is consistent across the electrical system, meaning the system is uniformly capable of functioning under increased loads. It is easy to take short cuts, applying designs that work for one customer to another. This may again open up the chances of increased liability as clients’ project needs may vary.
Make sure you go back to first principles with every design.
4. Find inconsistencies before installation
In larger consultancies where engineers have individual areas of expertise, it is common that several individuals may design separate parts of the installation. This can increase day-to-day efficiency in the office but can, if not well managed, lead to increased liability and problems with the system at post installation testing. Consultancies may find themselves shouldering significant financial cost.
You can largely overcome these problems by developing sound internal processes to manage the activities leading up to the release of designs and documentation to your client. Use a single point of expertise to check the interaction of all elements of the system design. Check drawings and specifications to make sure they are consistent before releasing them to the contractor. Don’t be tempted to rush this stage or to hand it to junior staff who may not have the expertise required to fully check the design.
Use a single person to check your designs to improve consistency.
5. Go back to first principles
It can be very tempting, when asked for a design change, to make the modification the easy way. That is, by modifying just the part of the system that needs to be directly changed to meet the change request.
This is problematic though as alterations made in one part of the installation may have an effect on another part of the installation.
If the fundamental principles of the design are to be changed, it is necessary to go right back to first principles to ensure the integrity of the overall design is maintained.