Guide to the RIBA Plan of Work for Small Projects

Guide to the RIBA Plan of Work for Small Projects

The RIBA Plan of Work is basically a break-down of the stages a construction project will go through, taking you from its inception through to the building being delivered and even in use. So why do you need to know about it? Often when getting a quote from an architect they will reference the Plan

The RIBA Plan of Work is basically a break-down of the stages a construction project will go through, taking you from its inception through to the building being delivered and even in use. So why do you need to know about it? Often when getting a quote from an architect they will reference the Plan of Work. For example they may say the quote is for work a stages 0 to 4 (or if using the old system they may use letters). What does each stage mean?

Stage 0: Strategic Definition

“Identify client’s Business Case and Strategic Brief and other core project requirements.” For householder projects this stage usually is a very basic outline of what you plan to do. For example if the project is to build a new home, you may need to decide how many rooms you need. Generally most of this will be decided without the help of a professional.

Stage 1: Preparation and Brief

“Develop Project Objectives, including Quality Objectives and Project Outcomes, Sustainability Aspirations, Project Budget, other parameters or constraints and develop Initial Project Brief. Undertake Feasibility Studies and review of Site Information.”

This stage is where you develop the project brief. This will detail all of your requirements and will be used by your architect to inform all design decisions. A good project brief is an essential part of a successful build. The design team will perform a full assessment of the site. You will discuss the budget, design preferences, quality and sustainability, before deciding on your priorities.

Stage 2: Concept Design

“Prepare Concept Design, including outline proposals for structural design, building services systems, outline specifications and preliminary Cost Information along with relevant Project Strategies in accordance with Design Programme. Agree alterations to brief and issue Final Project Brief.”

In this stage the building design will start to come together. Your architect will prepare some drawings so you can start to make some definite decisions about the buildings appearance and layout. They will also have some rough cost estimates for different elements of the building; you may choose where you may want to spend extra money to improve quality, or perhaps where you may be able to trim costs. At the end of this stage you will have the final project brief, with a rough cost estimate and some sketch drawings of the building. For smaller projects, such as extensions you may be ready to apply for Planning Permission at this stage. Larger projects, such as a new house, may need to be further developed.

Stage 3: Developed Design

“Prepare Developed Design, including coordinated and updated proposals for structural design, building services systems, outline specifications, Cost Information and Project Strategies in accordance with Design Programme.” More details cost information will be prepared and together with your architect you will choose finish materials. During this stage the design will be finalised and application for planning approval submitted.

Stage 4: Technical Design

“Prepare Technical Design in accordance with Design Responsibility Matrix and Project Strategies to include all architectural, structural and building services information, specialist subcontractor design and specifications, in accordance with Design Programme.”

It usually takes two months from the date of submission to get a decision on your planning application. During this time the technical drawings will be prepared. These will show how the building is constructed, how much insulation is installed and any structural considerations. You may have specialist design contractors involved, such as structural engineers or building services engineers. At the end of this process you should have full detailed drawings for the building. These will enable you to obtain accurate quotes from contractors, and will also be used to obtain building control approval. For smaller projects, if you have an experienced contractor they may not need detailed drawings. You may choose to obtain Building Control approval through a Building Notice, rather than a Full Plans application. This option can be slightly cheaper, but you will not know exactly what your contractor is going to do, they may cut costs by using lower quality materials. Furthermore if any work they do does not meet the required standard it will need to be re-done. This could cause significant delays to the build and you may also have to pay towards any additional work.

Stage 5: Construction

“Offsite manufacturing and onsite Construction in accordance with Construction Programme and resolution of Design Queries from site as they arise.”

Depending on the conditions of your contract, the architect may be heavily involved in the construction process, managing day to day activities and inspecting work for quality. They may have little or perhaps even no input at all. Generally speaking the architect will visit the site on occasion and will be on hand to answer any questions you have, or to help resolve any disputes with your builder. It’s important to clarify whether these services are included in the fee, and if not to discuss how much they should be reimbursed for any additional work.

Stage 6: Handover and Close Out

“Handover of building and conclusion of Building Contract.”

Once the build has finished the architect may inspect the work. There may be some snagging, where minor faults are put right. Any outstanding fees and retainers will be paid. You should receive the certificate of completion and be able to take full ownership of your new building.

Stage 7: In Use

“Undertake In Use services in accordance with Schedule of Services.” This stage is rarely required for smaller projects. If you have installed some innovative features, then perhaps some monitoring will be useful, but for most householder projects, once the contract has been fulfilled you will not need any further input from your architect.

The Previous Plan of Work

Many Architects may still be using the older system, so below is a very brief explanation of the stages and their meaning:

Stages A-B: Preparation

Stage A: Appraisal

Stage B: Brief

This stage is basically the same as Stage 1 in the new system, taking you to the initial project brief.

Stages C-E: Design

Stage C: Concept

Stage D: Design Development

Stage E: Technical Design

During these stages the building will be fully designed. At Stage D you will be ready to submit the Planning application and following Stage E Building Regulations can be obtained.

Stages F-H: Pre-Construction

Stage F: Production Information

Stage G: Tender Documents

Stage H: Tender Action

During these stages documentation is prepared to seek quotes from contractors. The project will be put out to tender and a contractor will be chosen. For smaller household projects this stage is usually very straightforward, Quotes can be obtained from the previously prepared drawings. Your architect should help you contact contractors for quotes and to choose the best value bid.

Stages J-K: Construction

Stage J: Mobilisation

Stage K: Construction in Practical Completion

These stages take you through the build to completion. As in Stage 5 of the updated Plan of Work, your architect’s involvement will depend on the details of the contract.

Stage L: Use

This is very much like Stage 7 of the new Plan of Work. There may be some ongoing snagging issues to resolve, but for smaller projects there is very little need for an architect’s involvement once you occupy the building

The RIBA Plan of Work is basically a break-down of the stages a construction project will go through, taking you from its inception through to the building being delivered and even in use. So why do you need to know about it? Often when getting a quote from an architect they will reference the Plan of Work. For example they may say the quote is for work a stages 0 to 4 (or if using the old system they may use letters). What does each stage mean?

Stage 0: Strategic Definition

“Identify client’s Business Case and Strategic Brief and other core project requirements.” For householder projects this stage usually is a very basic outline of what you plan to do. For example if the project is to build a new home, you may need to decide how many rooms you need. Generally most of this will be decided without the help of a professional.

Stage 1: Preparation and Brief

“Develop Project Objectives, including Quality Objectives and Project Outcomes, Sustainability Aspirations, Project Budget, other parameters or constraints and develop Initial Project Brief. Undertake Feasibility Studies and review of Site Information.”

This stage is where you develop the project brief. This will detail all of your requirements and will be used by your architect to inform all design decisions. A good project brief is an essential part of a successful build. The design team will perform a full assessment of the site. You will discuss the budget, design preferences, quality and sustainability, before deciding on your priorities.

Stage 2: Concept Design

“Prepare Concept Design, including outline proposals for structural design, building services systems, outline specifications and preliminary Cost Information along with relevant Project Strategies in accordance with Design Programme. Agree alterations to brief and issue Final Project Brief.”

In this stage the building design will start to come together. Your architect will prepare some drawings so you can start to make some definite decisions about the buildings appearance and layout. They will also have some rough cost estimates for different elements of the building; you may choose where you may want to spend extra money to improve quality, or perhaps where you may be able to trim costs. At the end of this stage you will have the final project brief, with a rough cost estimate and some sketch drawings of the building. For smaller projects, such as extensions you may be ready to apply for Planning Permission at this stage. Larger projects, such as a new house, may need to be further developed.

Stage 3: Developed Design

“Prepare Developed Design, including coordinated and updated proposals for structural design, building services systems, outline specifications, Cost Information and Project Strategies in accordance with Design Programme.” More details cost information will be prepared and together with your architect you will choose finish materials. During this stage the design will be finalised and application for planning approval submitted.

Stage 4: Technical Design

“Prepare Technical Design in accordance with Design Responsibility Matrix and Project Strategies to include all architectural, structural and building services information, specialist subcontractor design and specifications, in accordance with Design Programme.”

It usually takes two months from the date of submission to get a decision on your planning application. During this time the technical drawings will be prepared. These will show how the building is constructed, how much insulation is installed and any structural considerations. You may have specialist design contractors involved, such as structural engineers or building services engineers. At the end of this process you should have full detailed drawings for the building. These will enable you to obtain accurate quotes from contractors, and will also be used to obtain building control approval. For smaller projects, if you have an experienced contractor they may not need detailed drawings. You may choose to obtain Building Control approval through a Building Notice, rather than a Full Plans application. This option can be slightly cheaper, but you will not know exactly what your contractor is going to do, they may cut costs by using lower quality materials. Furthermore if any work they do does not meet the required standard it will need to be re-done. This could cause significant delays to the build and you may also have to pay towards any additional work.

Stage 5: Construction

“Offsite manufacturing and onsite Construction in accordance with Construction Programme and resolution of Design Queries from site as they arise.”

Depending on the conditions of your contract, the architect may be heavily involved in the construction process, managing day to day activities and inspecting work for quality. They may have little or perhaps even no input at all. Generally speaking the architect will visit the site on occasion and will be on hand to answer any questions you have, or to help resolve any disputes with your builder. It’s important to clarify whether these services are included in the fee, and if not to discuss how much they should be reimbursed for any additional work.

Stage 6: Handover and Close Out

“Handover of building and conclusion of Building Contract.”

Once the build has finished the architect may inspect the work. There may be some snagging, where minor faults are put right. Any outstanding fees and retainers will be paid. You should receive the certificate of completion and be able to take full ownership of your new building.

Stage 7: In Use

“Undertake In Use services in accordance with Schedule of Services.” This stage is rarely required for smaller projects. If you have installed some innovative features, then perhaps some monitoring will be useful, but for most householder projects, once the contract has been fulfilled you will not need any further input from your architect.

The Previous Plan of Work

Many Architects may still be using the older system, so below is a very brief explanation of the stages and their meaning:

Stages A-B: Preparation

Stage A: Appraisal

Stage B: Brief

This stage is basically the same as Stage 1 in the new system, taking you to the initial project brief.

Stages C-E: Design

Stage C: Concept

Stage D: Design Development

Stage E: Technical Design

During these stages the building will be fully designed. At Stage D you will be ready to submit the Planning application and following Stage E Building Regulations can be obtained.

Stages F-H: Pre-Construction

Stage F: Production Information

Stage G: Tender Documents

Stage H: Tender Action

During these stages documentation is prepared to seek quotes from contractors. The project will be put out to tender and a contractor will be chosen. For smaller household projects this stage is usually very straightforward, Quotes can be obtained from the previously prepared drawings. Your architect should help you contact contractors for quotes and to choose the best value bid.

Stages J-K: Construction

Stage J: Mobilisation

Stage K: Construction in Practical Completion

These stages take you through the build to completion. As in Stage 5 of the updated Plan of Work, your architect’s involvement will depend on the details of the contract.

Stage L: Use

This is very much like Stage 7 of the new Plan of Work. There may be some ongoing snagging issues to resolve, but for smaller projects there is very little need for an architect’s involvement once you occupy the building.

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