What’s Your Intent? The Importance of Early-Stage Documentation

Approaching projects in a systematic way prevents potential challenges associated with both greenfield and reconditioning construction projects. The creation of several documents and understanding their relationship to one another in the preliminary stages of project development are crucial to improving communication, increasing efficiency and completing successful projects that meet the needs of a facility.

Three specific documents must be considered at the outset of a project: owner’s project requirements (OPR), design intent and scope of work (SOW). The similarity of terms can create confusion among the various parties involved in a project, impairing communication and causing future frustration. So, what are each of these documents, and how do they differ?

Owner’s Project Requirements:

An OPR is developed by the owner and provides direction for the engineering and design team. Contained within the OPR are the functional goals the design is judged against and the criteria used post-construction to verify performance and success of the specified project. An OPR:

  1. Clarifies what the engineers or designers are tasked with achieving.
  2. Clarifies the process for evaluation of developed solutions.
  3. Provides criteria to judge the validity of each design submission.
  4. Provides acceptance criteria for evaluation during construction.
  5. Allows informed decisions about equipment operation, maintenance, and replacement by documenting original intent.

Design Intent:

Design intent is a clearly articulated description of what is or will be engineered, or designed, to meet the owner’s project requirements. Design intent applies the expertise and experience of engineers and designers to provide solutions specific to the needs of the project and should correlate to the information contained within the OPR. The process of documenting design intent creates an opportunity to gain maximum value from engineers and designers, who may identify additional needs or better solutions to achieve the goals of the OPR.

Scope of Work:

SOW is the formal document that specify the criteria of a contract. Developed from the OPR and design intent document, the SOW documents:

  1. Project requirements.
  2. Milestones.
  3. Deliverables.
  4. End products.
  5. Documentation and/or reporting expected to be delivered to the owner/operator.

Often these steps proceed through an informal process and are developed concurrently. Formalizing the creation of OPRs, design intent, and SOWs provides documentation upon which future decisions can be made, improves ongoing communication and assures identified goals are met.