Design Review Guideline

Document No:  D16#287778
Revision:  2D
Date amended:  05-Sep-2019

 Image: orange line.RCN-D13^23151823.GIF


The information below is intended to reflect the preferred practice of Main Roads Western Australia ("Main Roads"). Main Roads reserves the right to update this information at any time without notice. If you have any questions or comments please contact Kyle Smith by e-mail or on (08) 9323 5442.

To the extent permitted by law, Main Roads, its employees, agents, authors and contributors are not liable for any loss resulting from any action taken or reliance made by you on the information herein displayed.

Revision Register


Ed/Version Number Clause Number Description of Revision Date
1 All  Guideline Developed and Approved. 21-Feb-2003 
1A Header  Telephone No. of Contact changed. 12-Dec-2007
1B Header  Guideline Contact changed. 01-May-2009
​1C​Appendix A​Safety in Design - Design review point added.​09-May-2016
​2All​​Guideline Amended.​20-Jul-2018
​2AHeader​​Contact amended.​06-Aug-2018
​2B3.2.2​​ROSMA requirements added.​02-May-2019
​2C3.2.1​​Design Review Report Template updated.​05-Jul-2019
​2D​3.1Contact person clarified.​​05-Sep-2019


Table of Content


This guideline describes the design review practices for projects managed by Main Roads.

Typically all Main Roads designs require review. Design reviews are a tool for Project Managers to obtain an independent assessment of the design against good practices and relevant standards and guidelines.

Reviews may be undertaken at various stages of a project on the different outputs of the design phases. Some of the outputs may need to be reviewed by specialists in various areas whilst the Project Manager reviews other outputs.

Design reviews are not a verification of the design. The output from a review is a report highlighting any areas of the design, which may not comply with good practices and relevant standards and guidelines.

The fundamental design objectives of Safety, Economy, Environmental Sensitivity, Efficiency and Effectiveness are generally at odds with each other, for example the perfectly safe design is very often expensive to construct. Good design is achieved by appropriately balancing the fundamental design objectives. Compliance with the standards and guidelines alone does not guarantee good design.


There are three participants in the design review process: the Project Manager, the Designer and the Reviewer.

Image: Figure 1 Participants in the Design Review Process.JPG 

Figure 1: Participants in the Design Review Process

The Project Manager is responsible for the delivery of the whole project including the design. In some Regions the Project Manager may also be the designer. The Project Manager initiates the review, conveys the findings back to the Designer and determines the final course of action. The Project Manager is responsible to maintain the proper records on the project files.

The Designer is commissioned by the Project Manager to produce a design of the project that meets the fundamental design objectives. The Designer remains responsible for all elements of the design and its fitness for purpose, unless the Project Manager demands a specific treatment in the design against the recommendations of the Designer in which case the Project Manager would have . responsibility for the changed aspect. Such instruction must be fully documented. This instruction would normally be documented in a design report for the project.

Prior to supplying any design output to Main Roads the Designer is responsible for undertaking their own internal checking and reviewing of the design outputs.

The Reviewer is commissioned by the Project Manager to independently review the design and advise the Project Manager whether the design complies with good practices and relevant standards and guidelines. The Reviewer has no authority to directly influence the design and cannot demand changes to be made. The Reviewer should be available to explain the findings in detail if required.

The Reviewer must be independent from the Designer.


The design review process is shown in Figure 2:

Image: Figure 2 Design Review Process.JPG 

Figure 2: Design Review Process

3.1 Project Manager Initiates Review

Designs usually require review. Project Managers select an appropriate Reviewer (or review team) and specify the scope of the review. The Project Manager should nominate how the review is to be undertaken. The following options are available (in no particular order of preference).

  • By discipline e.g. civil, electrical, structural etc
  • By element e.g. horizontal alignment, vertical, drainage etc
  • By drawing number
  • No preferences (left up to the Reviewer to decide how they want to conduct the review)


A blank version of a suggested pro-forma to be used to initiate a Design Review can be found below:


All requests for design reviews to be undertaken by Road & Traffic Engineering Branch are to be made via the Design Review Coordinator. Wen Chen is currently in this role.


The Project Manager should fill out all of the details prior to forwarding to the Reviewer/s.

Significant projects should be reviewed at key milestones during the development of the design to minimise rework. It is sometimes beneficial to examine particular aspects of projects more frequently than at the key milestone.

A design review plan should be developed for each project. The need to develop a design review plan for a project depends on the size, complexity and the number of different design disciplines involved. The Project Manager should consider the risks involved in not developing a design review plan at the start of the project. A sample plan is attached at Appendix A.

Projects should be reviewed at the end of the following design stages (note not all projects have the stages identified below):

Feasibility Stage: this review is intended to confirm that the project can be constructed within the constraints. It includes the development of a concept design (plan and profile depending on the project), typical cross section and project-specific design standards.

Preliminary Design Stage: this review is intended to fix the primary elements of the design. It includes the design of such items as the main alignment, profile and major intersections in accordance with the standards and concepts developed in the feasibility stage. It is used to confirm that the design is achievable and appropriate within the constraints such as funding and land.

Detailed Design: is intended to fully document the project for construction. It comprises the design of all the detailed components of the project and the production of a complete set of drawings and may include a draft set of contract documentation.

It is essential that the Reviewer or review team possess substantial experience in the design of similar projects and have considerable knowledge of the relevant Main Roads and, Austroads standards and other relevant guidelines. The use of less skilled reviewers increases the risk of significant items being overlooked.

A team of reviewers from different backgrounds is usually beneficial for projects having higher complexity, more risk exposure or that involve several disciplines such as structures, roadworks, traffic signals etc.

Requests for reviews should be accompanied by the following:

  • Project Details - to make known any issues that the Reviewer should be aware of such as constraints, approvals or instructions that differ from the normal standards and the project status. Accompanying the design should be a Design Report covering all aspects of the design (e.g. survey, environmental, geotechnical, lighting etc) plus any other relevant documentation such as Project Charters and Plans.
  • Information Handed Over - a list of documents submitted for review and those submitted for background information only such as the design brief and road safety audit report if available.
  • Review Requirements - to define the scope/extent of the project to be reviewed, outline the aspects to be considered (i.e. geometry, drainage, etc.), specify whether a site inspection is needed and give the date that the review report is required.
  • Details of whether the information handed over is a copy or upon completion of the review returned to the Project Manager.

Site inspections are usually beneficial for the review, particularly for high-risk projects. However site inspections do not always represent good value for money due to travel costs. In assessing the need for a site visit, consideration should be given to the risks associated with not appreciating a project issue because a site visit was not undertaken.

It is often beneficial for the Project Manager and Designer to discuss the project with the Reviewers before the review.

The Road & Traffic Engineering Branch has the capacity to undertake some design reviews. Project Manager's should confirm the availability of Road & Traffic Engineering resources by contacting the Design Review Co-ordinator. If requested resources are un-available a Project Manager may need to engage external resources.

For projects being reviewed internally, it remains the Project Manager's responsibility to co-ordinate individual components of the design such as geotechnical investigations, structures etc reviewed by the relevant areas. The Road & Traffic Engineering Branch will only co-ordinate responses from within the Branch internal disciplines (geometry, drainage, safety barriers, traffic engineering and signage & pavement markings).

Project Manager's should allow a minimum of 10 working days for a design review to be completed. Complicated projects may require longer periods.

3.2 Reviewer Checks Information and Submits Report to Project Manager

The Reviewer or review team needs to thoroughly examine the information provided for review, make findings and prepare the review report. The Reviewer should contact the Project Manager as soon as possible if they need more information to undertake the review or if they consider that it requires skills beyond their experience. The review should focus primarily on the elements of the design that have been developed in the immediately preceding stage.

Reviews are accomplished by examining the project against good practices and relevant standards and guidelines.

3.2.1 Design Review Report

The Reviewer shall produce a report that summarises the scope and findings of the review. The report should reflect the example provided below.

Where initials are used, these should be displayed next to the Reviewers' name on top of the table.

An example of a design review report is attached at Appendix B.

A blank version for new design review reports in Microsoft Word format can be accessed by clicking on the link below:

Design Review Report - Template

The Reviewer fills out the first five columns of the report and leaves space for the other columns to be completed in due course. The report should be in a form that is suitable to be e-mailed so that the Designer's and Project Manager's entries can be made directly into the review table.

The Design Review report should focus on identifying shortfalls of the design against good practices and relevant standards and guidelines irrespective of whether the site is constrained.

Design solutions are typically not suggested although in some situations this may be appropriate. The reviewer should reference where an aspect of the design does not comply with a relevant standard or guideline. It is the role of the Designer to justify situations in which normal standards cannot be achieved, unless reduced standards were contained within the project brief for the Works.

In some cases it may be appropriate to include questions in the findings, especially when there are issues that require further investigation by other specialists.

Review reports shall be signed by the lead Reviewer. Any checklists used for the review should be included in an appendix to the design review report to show the extent of the review and the elements that have been considered to be satisfactory or otherwise.

3.2.2 Review of Design Objectives

Since the Reviewer is viewing the design with a fresh pair of eyes it may be appropriate for the Reviewer to consider the fundamental design objectives, which are discussed in more detail below:


ROSMA Road Trauma Reduction

Confirm that the ROSMA Road Trauma Reduction Process has been undertaken.


All projects must aim to improve the safety of the road environment. The safety assessment of the design review is usually best handled by a road safety audit, which is required for most projects as outlined in Main Roads Safety Audit Policy.

It is worth considering the following questions:

  • Does the design cater for all vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and adjacent residents?
  • Has any special traffic management requirements during construction been considered and included?


As a custodian of public funds, Main Roads must ensure that projects are designed and constructed in a manner that represents good value for money. This aspect must be considered from a whole-of-life perspective by considering construction, maintenance and operational costs.

It is worth considering the following questions:

  • Does the design appropriately accommodate future works?
  • Are the earthworks appropriate, particularly in light of site conditions?
  • Have 'constructability' issues, including construction staging and traffic management been considered?
  • Will the project require special or excessive maintenance?
  • Have the service relocations been fully addressed?
  • Is design consistent with current road reserve or Regional Scheme requirements?
  • Are the drawings and reports adequate for review, tendering, and construction?

Efficiency and Effectiveness

All projects have objectives. This category considers whether the design will achieve the project objectives efficiently and effectively, or in other words, will it work? The Project Manager must decide if the project objectives have been met.

Efficiency refers to minimising delays for all users travelling through the project both during construction and afterwards. The Designer/Project Manager should consider the ramifications of construction under traffic as opposed to other options including temporary widenings, detours and sidetracks.

Effectiveness refers to the proposed treatments being appropriate for the purpose intended.

The question of efficiency and effectiveness can be assessed by considering the following questions:

  • Have all the design disciplines been identified and their requirements incorporated?
  • Does the design adequately cater for the expected vehicle types and volumes as well as other transport modes?
  • Does the design adequately cater for pedestrians and cyclists?
  • Will the drainage system work effectively and what is the failure mechanism in an extreme rainfall event?

Environmental Sensitivity

All projects must be completed with due recognition of the potential impacts on the environment and be designed to minimise those impacts. It can be assessed by considering the following questions:

  • Have the potential environmental impacts been identified?
  • Does the design appropriately minimise or avoid impacts on both the natural and social environment?
  • Has the design received appropriate clearances and approvals?
  • Is the project likely to be aesthetically acceptable?

3.3 Project Manager Conveys Findings to Designer

This step gives the Project Manager an opportunity to examine the findings of the review before forwarding them to the Designer. It may be appropriate for the Project Manager to address some of the issues prior to forwarding to the Designer particularly if they relate to issues which the Project Manager has the background on. The Project Manager shall be the single point of contact for the Designer with Main Roads.

3.4 Designer Responds to Findings Back to Project Manager

The Designer should amend the design to address deficiencies identified in the review, unless there are appropriate reasons for not doing so.

The Designer should have an opportunity to respond to the findings of the review. A response can usually be classified into one of the following types:

  • Agree with the comment and will make the amendment.p
  • Agree with the comment but propose not to make the amendment because of project constraints - (proper justification required).
  • Understand the comment but propose not to make the amendment because it is beyond the scope of the brief.
  • Disagree with the comment and propose not to make the amendment. Details on why the Designer disagrees with the comment are required.
  • Disagree with the comment but will make the amendment as instructed by the Project Manager.

This report should note how the Designer will address the deficiencies identified. If the Designer dissents from change to overcome identified deficiencies they should record their reasons in the design review report.

The Designer's responses should be entered into the sixth column of the design review report.

3.5 Project Manager Assesses Responses and Determines Outcomes

The Project Manager is responsible for ensuring that appropriate action is taken in response to the findings of the review.

The Project Manager should consider the Designer's findings and responses and should agree a course of action in consultation with the Designer. Some of the findings will be considered the responsibility of the Designer and some a change in scope beyond the original commission. This in some cases leads to a disagreement regarding who should pay for the amendment. The issue of cost to make the required amendments needs to be agreed at this stage so that the final column of the review report can be completed.

Whilst the Reviewer is not involved in closeout of design changes, a Project Manager may wish to consult the Reviewer for further information in regard to the review. A closeout meeting involving the Project Manager, Designer and Reviewer can be beneficial in some circumstances to clarify issues raised in the review.

There may be a number of iterations in order to close out review issues. Included in Appendix C is an example of such iterations being tracked in the Design Review Table.

For a project that is to be reviewed through a number of phases (e.g. preliminary and detailed design) it may be appropriate to use the same review table with additional comments added for subsequent issues raised as the project progresses. The table should be modified to show the additional information and dates that it was provided for the subsequent reviews.

Any departure in standards or the adoption of a prescribed treatment against the recommendation of the Designer should be approved in accordance with the Delegation of Authority.

After agreement has been reached, the Project Manager must fill out the final column of the design review report as a formal record of the outcomes. A copy of the completed report shall be provided to the Designer.

The Project Manager must ensure that a copy of the completed design review report is placed on the appropriate project files and that the Designer has made the agreed amendments.

3.6 Designer Amends the Design as Required

The Designer shall make amendments in accordance with the agreements reached in step 3.5.

3.7 Completed Report Provided to the Reviewer

The Project Manager shall forward a copy of the completed design review report to the Reviewer.