Iceni’s tips on getting the best out of a Design Review Panel

25 Nov 20

Presenting to a Design Review Panel can be daunting for architects, and a source of concern for clients. So how can your team make the most out of the experience?

.

Over the past 10 years, local authority Design Review Panels have become more professional, while the value of design review has become better understood. Yet presenting to a Design Review Panel can be daunting for architects, and a source of concern for clients. So how can your team make the most out of the experience?

Here are our (sometimes hard-won) top tips:

1. See the opportunity: Design Review Panels can be challenging, but their purpose is ultimately a constructive one. A good panel can be the making of a better project.

2. Know your panel: Researching the work of members can give valuable insight into the kind of questions that are likely to be asked and how they might be answered.

3. It’s not just about Architecture: expect not only practicing architects, but landscape architects, the ubiquitous sustainable design expert and probably an academic on the panel too. You might even come across a moonlighting heritage consultant.

4. Go early if you can: the panel will feel it has more to offer the project and will criticise your team if they only see a project just before submission. Expect to go to the panel at least twice with a major scheme.

5. Scrutinise your presentation: root out the weaknesses, as these will be exposed, and check with local authority officers that it has been received in good time by the panel.

6. Set out the design process your team has been through: the panel will want to know how the design has developed, what has been considered and rejected and why, in order to help your team move forward.

7. That said, don’t be shy about setting narrow questions for the panel via the local authority, but always be ready for the conversation to go everywhere, despite your best efforts.

8. Take an integrated and well thought through design approach: show how the proposal grows out of its context and connects to its surroundings.

9. Don’t forget the mundane: bins and parking will always be a hot topic.

10. Have a set of detailed drawings with you, even if not in your presentation: you will inevitably be asked for them.

11. Take on board what the panel has to say: but recognise that not everything they say will be helpful. Some comments are likely to be contradictory, and the panel won’t know all of the constraints you are working to.

12. Don’t expect a glowing report: the purpose of the panel is not to rubber stamp but to interrogate in order to improve design.

13. Remember that the panel is not the decision maker: their comments will be a material consideration, but point out contradictions in their advice, or in relation to policy, to local authority officers. 14. Feedback: while the quality of Design Review Panels is now generally high, occasionally a weak chair or poorly balanced panel can make for a frustrating experience. Good feedback will help the next panel be more constructive.

14. Feedback: while the quality of Design Review Panels is now generally high, occasionally a weak chair or poorly balanced panel can make for a frustrating experience. Good feedback will help the next panel be more constructive.

Lewis Eldridge Associate,Built Heritage and Townscape