RIBA Plan of Work


The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been providing the regulatory framework for the building construction industry in the UK since 1963. During this time it has designed and re-designed the regulatory framework to take into consideration the latest developments in the industry. Prior to the latest release, RIBA had released a plan of work in 2007 which was a good standard guide at the time. As times and circumstances change, RIBA has updated the standards by changing the grouping of the stages and incorporating some aspects which the British government considers important such as planning policies, health and safety policies, alternative procurement routes and many other factors. This paper discusses these issues showing how they have been integrated in the various stages in the plan of work and the different tasks that take place at each stage.




The RIBA plan of work is prepared by the Royal Institute of British Architects in conjunction with other stakeholders to provide a regulatory framework for practitioners in the building and construction industry (Cross, 2013). The RIBA plan of work is widely used in the UK as the official guideline and directive indicating the best practices in the industry (Farrelly, 2014). The plan of work has been extremely efficient such that it has been benchmarked by numerous countries worldwide, modeling their building and construction industry regulatory framework on RIBA’s. RIBA has continued to update its plan of work since 1963 as times and circumstances change (Hopkirk, 2014). The latest plan of work was prepared in 2013 and represented a paradigm shift from the previous one prepared in 2007. The stages of work have essentially remained the same only that they have been categorised and labeled differently (Architecture.com, 2014). Instead of the eleven stages that were explicated by the tasks to be conducted, the new plan of work has eight stages and eight task bars under each stage indicating the tasks to be conducted. Most importantly, however, the latest version of RIBA plan of work has addressed areas that had not been taken into consideration by the other plans such as alternative procurement routes, town planning functions and sustainability issues (Ostime, 2013). The RIBA plan of work 2013 places emphasis on sustainability issues because the UK government intends to promote efficient energy use and conservation of the environment going forward. It has also update its considerations in procurement by not only considering the traditional procurement method, which the previous plan was based on, but also design and build, and management contracting procurement models (RIBA, 2014). The document has, therefore, managed to integrate technology with contemporary practice to form the best practices of the industry. This paper explicates the eight stages of RIBA plan of work to show the tasks that can be carried out at each stage.

Stage 0: Strategic Definition

Strategic definition is the first stage in building construction. It is, basically, the preparation stage and corresponds with part of the appraisal and briefing stage of the old plan of work (Ostime, 2013). The core objectives of the strategic definition stage are to define project requirements and to initiate the preparation of the project brief (RIBA, 2013). It is the initial conceptual stage and incorporates the generation of the idea and initiation all the aspects of the project. Some of the activities that take place in this stage include visiting the proposed construction site and determining the feasibility of the project (Nguyen, 2014). During strategic definition the major strategic decisions are made giving the project a skeleton the subsequent stages will fill. Some of the strategic decisions involve conceptualizing the feasibility study, preparing the tentative budget and starting the preparation of the brief which will be developed through the following stage (Cross, 2013).

The procurement tasks in the strategic definition stage involve the various specialists and major players determining the materials that will be needed for the project so that they can be procured (Ostime, 2013). The tasks involve determining the form of the building to be constructed, the specific services and the people who will be engaged for those services, and determining sustainability issues and their potential solutions (Thompson, 1999). The specialists who can be engaged include quantity surveyors, environmental experts, acoustic engineers and many others. Involving these individuals at this early stage is critical since all the project requirements will be determined and unprecedented expenses reduced.

The third task under strategic definition is programming. Since there are no physical activities taking place at the moment, it may not be necessary to prepare the project programme (RIBA, 2014). However, the decision on whether to prepare a program or not depends on the defining characteristics of a project. Alternatively, a tentative project programme can be prepared which can then be altered as circumstances changes and as the project is being undertaken (Goedert and Meadati, 2008). The fourth task in strategic definition is town planning. Since it is the conceptualization stage, it would be prudent explore the local planning policy first. This may involve querying the local planning authority for instituted policies on issues such as sustainability, forestation, party wall and energy use (Bossink, 2011). Most boroughs have a planning department that handles town planning issues and regulations. This should aid later on in designing structures that in congruent with the local energy efficient plans, urban planning and many other sustainability issues.

There are various suggested key supported tasks that can be carried out at this early stage of building construction. The first task would be document review where past projects that exhibit similar characteristics are studied along with their client’s feedback (Paslawski, 2008). This should provide some insights into the best practices and the pitfalls to be avoided in the current project. It is for the same reasons of informing future generations of architects that at the completion of this project, the client would be required to submit all the technical drawings with the relevant authority and their feedback over time (Fox, marsh and Cockerham, 2003). Another task that can be included at this stage is compiling the preliminary project team. At this stage, the architect and the client may not have determined the whole list of specialised personnel that would be engaged. In most instances, at this stage, the project team would comprise of the client, the architect, building engineers, quantity surveyor and a clerk. Other project team members such as health and safety experts and the contractor will be involved at the later stages when the whole project has been figured out (Karlowski and Paslawski, 2008). Another potential activity to be carried out is surveying the land where the building is to be constructed and marking the site. Obtaining all the relevant information about the site is essential during the design stages as all the factors that influence the sustainability of the building will be take into account (Ding, 2008).

Lastly, this may also be an appropriate stage to introduce and propose the best Building Information Model, but such a decision may be a tentative one as there are many issues that may necessitate change in the subsequent stages (Ostime, 2013). A Building Information Model is a mechanism meant to generate details of the various aspects of the project. The details and information aid in decision making such as determining the procurement route. There are many several levels of BIM such as 3D, 4D, 5D, 6D and 7D. The 3D is the most common BIM level. It utilizes the existing condition models to generate the project details. The 4D model is focused on scheduling and proposes lean scheduling where the project materials are provided when they are needed. It, thus, emphasizes the Just In Time (JIT) production model (Nguyen, 2014). The 5D level focuses on estimating the cost of the project. It generates the details necessary for the preparation of the budget through real time conceptual modeling. The 6D level focuses on sustainability (Sherrat, Farrel and Noble, 2013). The information generated is geared towards designing structures that are efficient in energy use and use of environmentally sustainable materials. Lastly, the 7D model generates financial information of the project especially the return on investment. This information is critical for facility management and asset management (Nguyen, 2014).

As for sustainability checkpoints, the client and the architect will have to crosscheck their sustainability initiatives against those of the local authority to make sure that they are compliant in every aspect (RIBA, 2014; Myers, 2005). If there are loopholes in the compliance, the application for sustainability approval in the subsequent stages may be revoked or issued with a lot of conditions. It would be in the best interest of the client to fully comply with the sustainability requirements of the local planning authority (Childress, 2013). One of the major guideline in building construction is the RIBA Green Overlay. This document provides guidelines that promote the construction of low carbon buildings while at the same time ensuring optimal use of resources. The Green Overlay provides guidelines for designing sustainable buildings that efficiently utilizes natural resources such as energy, water, heat, air and light (RIBA, 2013; Nguyen, 2014). It would be important for the client and architect to consult these guidelines before preparing the project brief and designing the building.

The strategic definition information exchanges may involve tasks such as starting the preparation of the strategic brief and setting up the project consultant team and getting the initial consultation information. At this stage, too, the architect is expected to have come up with all the sustainability issues to be complied with, the planning insights from the local planning authority and the tentative budget which the architect then furnishes the client with (Nguyen, 2014). The last task bar is the UK government information exchange. At this stage, there is no information exchange that the government is interested in and so it may not be necessary to carry out any exchange activities with the government.

Stage 1: Preparation and Brief

This stage is still in the preparation phase; it basically involves completing the preparation tasks that were started in the strategic definition stage (RIBA, 2013). Some of the core objectives of this stage would be to continue with the preparation of the strategic brief and finalizing the obtaining and review of the construction site information (RIBA, 2014). It is important to note that the construction project is an iterative process and as such there may be an inflow of various project team members at different stages of the project. Therefore, even at this stage, the architect will continue building the project team (Ho, Hong and Hyun, 2011). With regards to the project team, the client will be expected to start preparing the Responsibility Matrix. This is a document that shows the roles and responsibilities of each project team member (Ostime, 2013). It is an essential document which should be prepared as early as possible as it outlines every players’ roles and responsibilities and reduces confusion. Efficiency is, thus, guaranteed.

The procurement task bar in this stage may involve introducing the various procurement routes to the client and proposing the best for this particular project (Nguyen, 2014). RIBA plan of work 2013 considers three procurement routes as opposed to the previous version that considered only the traditional procurement route. The latest version includes Design and Build, and Management Contracting as the two alternatives to the traditional procurement route (Nguyen, 2014). The traditional plan is still preferred by many architects in the field since it is the simplest and easiest for clients to understand (Cox and Townsend, 1998; Cook and Sharp, 2010). It involves designing and cost planning concurrently with the construction works starting only when the project design and its cost have been established.  The management contracting route is different in the sense that construction works do not have to start only after the completion of designing processes; as long as the initial stages have been designed the construction can start (Pan, Gibbs and Dorothy, 2012). The design and build, on the other hand, is focused on establishing the cost of the project first. As soon as the cost has been established, the project construction works may start and continue as designing continues. The choice of the procurement route will mostly depend on the focus of the client and architect, whether it is on cost, time or quality (Blackmore, 1990; Boyd and Chinyio, 2006).

The programme task bar at this stage may involve the preparation of the project programme. This is an outline of all the major activities to be carried out in the project and the expected date of completion (Paslawski, 2008). Since it is still early, the project programme prepared is tentative and subject to review as and when required.  Some of the project activities include preparation of outline sketches, tendering, undertaking the various statutory approvals, main construction and many more (Ostime, 2013). The individual characteristics and components of the project programme will be influenced by the uniqueness of the individual project.

Since the architect would have already checked for planning requirements, the planning tasks at this stage would largely be confirmatory. This is where the planning undertakings are examined as to whether they are still relevant. It also involves securing the permission to proceed with the construction from the relevant planning authorities. If the permission is delayed or rejected for any reason, this is the time to appeal or review the planning decisions to make them acceptable (Kibert, 2007). It is crucial to dispense with this task at this stage so that it does not slow down the designing and construction stages once they start.

The suggested key support task bar involves preparation of documents pertinent to the project brief. One of the tasks that may be carried out at this stage includes preparation of the risk assessment matrix (Cross, 2013). This details all the risks facing the project and how they are to be addressed. Therefore, there needs to be an in-house project team to take care of all the risk assessment and scheduling needs. Since there may be new developments, it may be prudent to review the budget to reflect the changes that have taken place since its last reparation (RIBA, 2013). Finally, health and safety regulations and procedures will have to be prepared at this stage and distributed to the employees present. This should help them take care of themselves and know the extent to which the employer will be held liable in case of personal injuries in the cause of discharging one’s duties. Once the risks and health and safety issues have been addressed the responsibility matrix may be finalized at this stage (RIBA, 2013).

As for sustainability functions, the architect will just need to follow up what was proposed in the first stage to see whether the proposals are still viable or whether they need some review. Further consultation on sustainability of the building to be constructed may also be undertaken (Nguyen, 2014). Information exchange tasks in this stage may involve finalizing on the initial project brief and receiving the recommendations of the feasibility report. These bits of information will be required by the government as part of the UK government information exchange (Yu and Ive, 2011). The government, at this stage, examines and determines whether the feasibility study has been conducted correctly and that the report has reached the right recommendations.

Stage 2: Concept Design

This is the third stage and its core objective is to design the concept of the project. This is simply the process of converting the ideas into implementable form (Ostime, 2013). The ideas have been generated through the previous two processes via the project brief and the recommendations of the feasibility study. This is also the last stage where the preparation of the project brief takes place (Farrelly, 2014). Ordinarily, the brief should be completed by stage 1. If for any reason the brief was not completed, this is the last stage to finalise it as it is not wise and economical to make changes to the project brief once the technical designs have been done. Other objectives of this phase include development of the project strategies and further preparation and review of the project budget.

The procurement task bar of concept design stage involves tasks such as identifying the different participants in the procurement process and determining their tasks (Cook and Sharp, 2010). The appropriate procurement route was selected in the previous stage, so this stage involves taking the procurement process forward. The tendering process is determined at this stage and the specific tasks that will be carried out at the various stages clearly delineated (Paslawski, 2008).

The programme task bar involves reviewing the project programme that was prepared at the preparation and brief stage. As the programme is being implemented, there are changes that will be noted and insights that will be gained, it will be crucial to review the programme to take into consideration these changes in circumstances and new information. The in-house project team should have completed all the planning requirement tasks by this stage. However, if for any reason the planning proposal was rejected, the review of the planning proposal may still be taking place at this stage. Preferably, all the planning tasks should be completed at the planning task of stage 1.

The suggested key support tasks include finalizing the project brief (Ostime, 2013). As stated earlier, this should be the last stage where the brief should be considered, after this stage making any changes to the project brief may be detrimental to the project and the client. Other tasks include ensuring efficient record keeping, legal matters consultations and budget review (RIBA, 2014). If there are new employees taken aboard, it is the opportune moment to update them on the previous activities carried out in the previous stages. It will also be prudent to advise them on their insurance cover and the extent of their liability in the project.

Sustainability checkpoint tasks involve developing concepts that are in sync with the sustainability proposals generated in the previous stages (Mokhlesian and Holmen, 2012). If the sustainability issues addressed air flow or heat control, the designer makes sure to design the building in such a way that those specific issues are taken into consideration. The information exchange task bars involve collecting the final brief and generating the updated project budget (Nguyen, 2014). It may be necessary to furnish the government with the final brief if it asks for it as part of the information exchange.

Stage 3: Development Design

This is the stage where the developed concepts are internalized into further design information. The core objectives of this stage are to prepare the architectural designs and other relevant structural designs (RIBA, 2013). The project strategies will also be further refined as will the budget. By this time the final project brief has already been completed and so no more alterations need to be made on it.

The procurement tasks at this stage are hugely dependent on the procurement route that was selected at the previous stages. Most projects start the tendering processes at this stage where the tender invitations are sent out to potential contractors (Fox, Marsh and Cockerham, 2003). The programme task bar involves reviewing the project timetable to take into account recent developments. A schedule of services is also prepared and then taken to the client for approval. There is little planning activities at this stage especially if the planning proposals were forwarded to the local planning authorities and accepted (RIBA, 2013). The planning issues at this stage will be necessitated by complications in planning from the previous stages.

The suggested key support tasks include appointing the required specialists such as structural engineers, health and safety experts, acoustics engineer, resident engineers and interior designer among others. These specialists help turn the conceptualized ideas into technical designs that can be implemented (Sherrat, Farrel and Noble, 2013). There is a lot of third party consultation involving individual experts and various regulatory bodies. For instance, the fire department may be involved to design the fire escape system and place heat and smoke sensors and water sprinklers at strategic places. Budget review is also necessary at this stage to accommodate incidental costs and to make sure that the costs incurred are within the boundaries articulated in the budget (Nguyen, 2014).

The sustainability checkpoints at this stage involve tasks that are meant to ascertain that the technical designs are in sync with the sustainability policies that had been developed (Ostime, 2013). It is absolutely necessary to conduct a sustainability assessment since there are a lot of third parties involved. For instance, if the acoustics engineer is going to design the technical acoustics aspects, he is supposed to do this within the energy use declaration cited in the sustainability policies. Information exchanges tasks involve obtaining all the technical drawings on the site, and the building illustrating how the different aspects will be treated (RIBA, 2014). The UK government information exchange will is dependent on whether the government will request for the information exchange