Design quality indicator

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The Design Quality Indicator (DQI) is a toolkit to measure, evaluate and improve the design quality of buildings.

Development of DQI was started by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) in 1999[1]. It was initiated in response to the success of Key Performance Indicators devised for assessing construction process issues such as timely completion, financial control and safety on site by the construction industry's Movement for Innovation (M4I). The aim of the DQI system was to ensure that the M4I's indicators of construction process were balanced by an assessment of the building as a product[2]. The Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex was commissioned to develop the indicator tool, which was launched as an online resource on 1 October 2003.[3] In 2004 the DQI received recognition from the British Institute of Facilities Management for the role of involving users in the design process.[4] The DQI tool was made available to users in the United States in 2006, and an online American version was launched on 20 October 2008.

Unlike its forerunner the Housing Quality Indicator (HQI) system devised for the UK's Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) by the consultancy DEGW and published on open access in February 1999[5], the DQI system instead could be used only by approved facilitators. The criteria and the method of assessment, which though unacknowledged is a simple form of multi-attribute utility analysis, remained unaccessible to design teams and their clients unless they employed a facilitator licensed to use it. Guidance on using the HQI system can be found on the government website[6]. The DQI version for hospitals is also on open access on the national archive[7].

Conceptual framework[edit]

DQI applies a structured approach to assess design quality based on the model by the architect Vitruvius, the Roman author of the earliest surviving theoretical treatise on building in Western culture, who described design in terms of utilitas, firmitas and venustas, often translated as commodity, firmness and delight.[8] DQI uses a modern-day interpretation of these terms as:

  • Functionality (utilitas) – the arrangement, quality and interrelationship of spaces and how the building is designed to be useful to all.
  • Build Quality (firmitas) – the engineering performance of the building, which includes structural stability and the integration, safety and robustness of the systems, finishes and fittings.
  • Impact (venustas) – the building’s ability to create a sense of place and have a positive effect on the local community and environment.


DQI is completed by a range of stakeholders in the briefing and design stages of a building project, or on a completed building. Stakeholders who participate include:

DQI is applied in a facilitated workshop that is led by a certified DQI facilitator.

Models and related approaches[edit]

There are three models of design quality indicator:

  • DQI which is applicable to all building types[9]
  • DQI for schools which is applicable to school buildings.[10] This model of DQI is being used on all current school projects in the UK[11] and forms part of the Department for Children, Schools and Families 'Minimum Design Standard' for new school buildings.[12]
  • DQI for health buildings which was released in beta format in June 2012 on the DQI website

In the United States[edit]

Formed in 2006, DQI USA[13] is the only company that is authorized to distribute the DQI tool in North America. New York City's Department of Design and Construction has adopted the DQI tool as a mandatory step in the procurement of city-owned buildings such as police stations, libraries, firehouses, museums and clinics.[14] The DQI has also been used to investigate the relation between building design, user satisfaction, and property financial and marketing performance in North America hotels.[15]

DQI is a web-based assessment tool that helps define and evaluate design quality at all key stages in the building procurement process. Through a proprietary algorithm, the tool converts individual subjective perceptions into objective measurable results. Clients, designers and building stakeholders rate aspects of a project on a simple six-point scale by completing a short questionnaire. The quantification of these "design intangibles" is a unique feature to DQI. The spider diagram is the signature output of DQI. The “chunks” missing from the pie represent deficiencies in the building.


  1. ^ Page 6, Spencer, N. and Winch, G. (2002). How Buildings add value for clients, London: Thomas Telford. ISBN 0-7277-3128-9
  2. ^ Macmillan, S. (2004) Preface to Designing Better Buildings: quality and value in the built environment, London: Spon Press. ISBN 0-415-31525-5
  3. ^ Construction Industry Council. DQI Online – How well is your building designed? 1 October 2003
  4. ^ The Structural Engineer DQI online service gets recognition from BIFM – The Structural Engineer 2 November 2004
  5. ^ Wheeler, P. (2004) 'Housing quality indicators in practice' in Macmillan, S. (2004) Designing Better Buildings: quality and value in the built environment, London: Spon Press. ISBN 0-415-31525-5
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Gann et al. (2003), Design Quality Indicator as a tool for thinking: Building Research and Information, London: Spon Press. doi:10.1080/0961321032000107564
  9. ^ Design Quality Indicator
  10. ^ Schools version of DQI
  11. ^ Construction Industry Council. DQI for Schools Launched 8 December 2005
  12. ^ Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Minimum Design Standards Launched May 2009
  13. ^ "DQI USA: About Us: Company". 
  14. ^ DQI USA, LLC clients
  15. ^ Zemke, D., Pullman, M., (2008), Design Assessing the value of good design in hotels: Building Research and Information, London: Spon Press. doi:10.1080/09613210802380993

Other references[edit]