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Successful delivery of large complex building projects requires an extensive team of specialist providers. To avoid costly contract variations and make sure the project remains on track, the timing of these appointments is critical. As signs tend to be installed towards the end of the build, you’d be forgiven for thinking you don’t need to worry about the wayfinding until the latter stages. Do so at your peril – here we explain why you should consider appointing a wayfinding consultant during the concept design stage.
The RIBA Plan of Work Framework for managing construction projects

The RIBA Plan of work 2020 (image courtesy RIBA).

A successful building development project requires sourcing and co-ordinating a long list of specialist contractors and consultants:

  • Master planners and architects to design it;
  • Quantity surveyors to cost it;
  • Contractors to clear the site; others to do the enabling works and build it;
  • Planning and project management consultants;
  • then there’s mechanical and engineering; lighting; fire safety; accessibility; environmental, interior design requirements…..

Somewhere in the mix will be signage and wayfinding. As signs are unlikely to be installed until the final finishes are being made – surely you can leave the appointment of wayfinding consultants until the latter project stages?

Do so at your peril. In fact, it is recommended that wayfinding consultants are appointed before construction starts. Ideally, towards the end of the architectural concept design (stage 2), but certainly during stage 3 and the early part of the developed design phase (See The RIBA Plan of Work for fuller details about each stage).

Why it's Important to Appoint Wayfinding Consultants During the Architectural Design Stage?

To put it bluntly, it could help mitigate future project and operational management headaches; improve the overall design and ultimately be more cost effective:

  • A wayfinding consultant may identify opportunities for increasing the legibility of a building through the architectural design. Thereby improving usability and reducing the number of signs that might otherwise be needed.
  • Identifying sign locations at the building design stage, will enable power, data and fixing requirements to be incorporated into the overall M&E (mechanical & engineering) package. Reducing future contract amendments and associated costs.
  • Considering the wayfinding at a much later stage, is more likely to result in a compromised sub optimal solution. Depending on the building use, this could lead to:
    • people missing or being late for appointments, trains and planes;
    • customer dissatisfaction from not being able to find what they’re looking for; and
    • lower than expected footfall to particular areas.
  • Allied to the above, it will avoid expensive retrofitting costs, from having to make good internal finishes or implement remedial actions.
  • In shopping centres, knowing where wayfinding signs are to be sited well in advance, will help in leasing exclusion zone negotiations with potential tenants.

Appointing a wayfinding consultant during the early stages of the project, means that there will be long stretches; (potentially running into many months) where they may have little direct involvement. Experienced wayfinding consultants will be used to working in this way. But clearly continuity within the team across the elapsed timeframe is important. As is ensuring that the rationale for various design or strategic decisions are captured along the way.