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DQI Annual General Meeting – The Way Forward

October 13, 14.30 – 18.00, Design Council, Bow Street , W1.

Graham Watts Speaking Notes

Overview of the past year

First of all, can I take this opportunity of welcoming Richard to CABE and wishing him every continued success for enhancing CABE as a catalyst to achieving better buildings and green spaces. It has done a great job over the past few years, especially in raising the value of design up the public sector’s agenda. We – in CIC – have been pleased to work with CABE on many issues and have very much welcomed their support, endorsement and positively critical eye during the development of DQIs. Long may this relationship collaboration continue.

The whole ethos of CIC is about working with others. As an umbrella body we could not exist without the partners and members that we work with in a spirit of mutual association. Too many bodies, ploughing their own furrow, is a sure way of getting nothing much done!

Since CIC set upon the path of developing the Design Quality Indicator back in September 1999 the process has been through a number of iterations and it is good to periodically reflect at events such as this on how we have got to where we are.

In July 2002 we launched the Trailblazing Scheme here in this very room, a point which marked the very first opportunity for people to start using the DQI tool.

A year ago we publicly launched the DQI as an online toolkit at the Treasury and this marked the first opportunity for everyone to have a go – a key reference point for the tool’s current phase, but as we will hear later this is certainly not yet its final iteration.

In terms of an innovation the DQI is starting to reach a certain maturity, but in terms of its potential role over the whole project life cycle the DQI is still quite young and this is an issue that is still very much influencing our thoughts about future development.


How are things going with the delivery of the DQI tool?

Well, I’m pleased to say that, as of today, 364 projects have registered with the DQI system.

But what does this number really mean?

In fact it relates to well over 400 individual assessments – or workshops – undertaken with the DQI.

And as Richard said earlier over 2000 individuals have fed into these 364 projects – 2000 people have had a structured opportunity to provide their views on the building projects with which they are involved.

And more than 70% of these 2000 people are end users, facilities managers or visitors to the building. I think this shows that the DQI is delivering a key aim to involve as many people as possible in defining a value set for their building, and the DQI process is clearly really helping this to be achieved.

The role of the DQI as a tool which can capture wide views is also being established in how the tool is being used - so it is not surprising that the DQI’s main areas of use are Education (over 50%), Offices and Housing Schemes (around 16% each) - as these are all building types with a wide range of diverse users.

The DQI’s recent nomination for the British Institute of Facilities Management Innovation Award recognises the degree of influence that the tool can have in involving end users in the process. Ratification of the tool by the Institute whose members are responsible for running buildings, recognises the role that the DQI is playing in capturing all the stakeholders’ views at the briefing stage.

Much has been said about the much-ranted 1:5:200 relationship between the capital cost, maintenance costs and operational costs of running a building and the BIFM nomination acknowledges that the DQI tool can help empower the end-users to influence the design stage of the building. The DQI has the real potential to add value to buildings .

How are people using the tool?

We have learnt a lot about how people like you use the tool since we first launched it back in 2002.

We know that the DQI is a whole project measure and it will always work best if applied throughout the construction process from inception, when the DQI is used to establish aspirations for a project, through to design, construction and post occupancy where the DQI profile can be compared to these aspirations.

A lot of feedback has been received about this, and later Sunand Prasad will be talking about our aspirations for the next version of the DQI tool which we anticipate will improve delivery of the briefing phase of the DQI.

Within the 364 registered projects we are currently seeing about a 25% reuse rate, where projects are having the tool applied more than once to build up a multi-layered picture of the whole project in development. Set against this about 30% of use has been undertaken solely as post-occupancy one-off assessments.

What is encouraging for future use is that 70% of recent assessments have been at the briefing stage and therefore building up a firm base of use in the future. Even more to the point three-quarters of the respondents to these briefing assessments are end users of buildings thus enabling users to be brought into the design quality evaluation process at the very earliest stage.

Also, within the next six months we will see the first projects completed that have used the DQI through their whole life from briefing through to post occupancy. We are very grateful to these project teams, who have helped us hone the process by which the tool works and lived with the consequent changes. After five years of development we are, at last, going to see buildings where design quality will have benefited from the use of the DQI at every stage.

Who is using the tool?

A year ago we talked about the DQI being a tool which should be applied by the supply side of the industry. How are we achieving on this? Data is difficult to capture, but it seems that about 70% of uses are being initiated by suppliers and the case studies we have just heard from have given different approaches for how this works.

Also, we have initiated a process of targeting the top 50 firms in the industry to promote use of the DQI – and we are now in a position where about 40% of all uses are being initiated by one of these large firms. With all your help, we can do better and, I hope that when I next step up to speak about DQI progress, we will at least have the majority of major firms as regular users of the tool.

What types of projects?

At present, about 85% of DQI use is for public sector or PFI projects. This is probably expected, and we realise that there is more work to do in targeting the use of the tool on private sector projects. We believe that consultants and facilitates will be the key to unlocking greater interest in the DQI from the private sector.


The past year has achieved a strong start for the DQI delivery in the industry – but we are still only capturing a small percentage of total use.

We are looking into ways to do this better – CIC recently initiated a forum for all the developers of design quality tools for use in the built environment – there are other processes out there which are doing a similar thing to the DQI, but for historic reasons go about it in a slightly different way and with different advantages – so we are working more closely with, for example, AEDET in the health sector and DEEP for defence estates through this forum to provide more clarity for users of the tools. David Gann will talk later about work we are doing with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and CABE Space to develop variants of the tool which provide a more specific language for schools and spaces, and infrastructure.

Without exception each of these variants is a specialist development in a specific sector and our vision is certainly to act as a catalyst to enable a “DQI family” of design indicators to maximise impact and to enable the exchange of knowledge. We remain committed to the concept of a generic DQI – one that can cross over boundaries of building sector and type – which we strongly believe will give us the best possible tool and associated database to help in the ongoing struggle of improving the quality of the built environment.

Graham Watts

CIC Chief Executive


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