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LEADERSHIP IN ADVERSITY

Designing and building it

Dale Sinclair runs through the RIBA’s 2013 edition of the Plan of Work

It seems appropriate that the 50th anniversary of the original RIBA Plan of Work should mark the birth of a new one in an era where austerity and a deep recession are acting as catalysts for change in the construction industry. The Plan of Work 2013 provides leadership to the industry during this transition period.

The alignment of the new project stages across the Construction Industry Council (CIC) Schedule of Services and the RIBA Plan of Work 2013 is one of the achievements emanating from this work, and is important as the CIC is the interface for many Cabinet Office activities on its construction strategy.

2013 launch
Feedback from consultations with all RIBA members has been incorporated into the draft Plan of Work 2013.
The final version will be published in hard copy by the end of 2012 with the electronic version available early next year. It will set out the new stages, the key tasks undertaken during these stages and provide an overview of the level of detail to be issued at each stage. There will be generic bars for the ‘3 Ps’ (procurement, planning and programme) and the electronic version will allow creation of more specific bars for these activities.

Furthermore, the electronic version can be applied for repetitive use by a practice or as a ‘one-off’ for a particular project. For example, a practice that undertakes many small projects using traditional procurement, and is likely to use this form of procurement in the foreseeable future, will be able to generate a plan that explains the holistic design and construction process to their clients without any specific dialogue on procurement or planning or programme. But on larger projects discussions or workshops related to the separate but interlinked subjects of procurement, (town) planning and programme will be essential before a project specific Plan of Work 2013 is generated. RIBA Client Advisors will need to ensure that discussions on these topics are properly facilitated in the preparation stage before design work begins.

Some tasks have needed definition which provides extra clarity. The new terminology for these tasks, and its rationale, includes:

> Intelligent brief If the desired project outcomes are to be achieved the brief, alongside its traditional role of setting specific area or room requirements, will need to set out the desired project outcomes as well as the information required by the client in order to manage their asset after handover. The methodologies for undertaking this essential task will require thorough re-examination and overhaul.

> Soft landings strategy The soft landings initiative (www.softandings.org.uk) that sets out how to manage a building’s handover over a longer period (pre and post practical completion) is gaining momentum. For example, the initiative addresses the requirement for adequate information at handover or issues associated with the seasonal commissioning requirements necessary to properly bed-in services installations. It also embraces post occupancy and performance evaluation and can be applied at different levels to projects of all shapes and sizes.

> Project strategies In the early design stages a number of strategies need to be developed in parallel with the design. These include energy, sustainability, acoustics, fire, and security. These strategies become defunct in the later stages once incorporated into the technical design information.

> Construction strategy Where it is deemed beneficial, early contractor involvement is typically achieved by engaging a contractor on the basis of a prelims, profit and overhead tender. Such involvement has pros and cons, with the contractual nature, and resulting commercial constraints, the main down side.

The new Plan suggests a different way of engaging a construction advisor who can produce a strategy that covers issues such as craneage, site access and accommodation logistics as well as buildability and programme issues. On smaller projects a construction strategy would increase the client’s awareness of what will occur on site, provide tendering contractors with an insight into the designers’ thoughts on buildability and provide a platform to communicate any health and safety risks.

> Project execution plan Project execution plans that collate the contact details of all parties and individuals on a project, as well as other key shared data such as the design programme or communication methodologies, have been used for some time. It is now essential during the preparation stage that the project team discusses and agrees software to be used, and the types of outputs required, drawing and file numbering, the level of detail that will be prepared at each stage and the means for communicating – including the issue, sharing and review of information. The Plan of Work 2013 suggests a single document but several linked documents may be inevitable. Whatever its format, an industry wide document would ensure true ‘plug and play’ processes enabling the front end of projects to be properly focused on design rather than ambiguities regarding protocols or responsibilities.

These examples are, of course, not definitive. However, they do underline the challenge in incorporating the simplicity of the current Outline Plan of Work 2007 into the new RIBA Plan of Work 2013 while trying to address the many drivers influencing the processes associated with the design, construction, maintenance and operation of a building. 

Dale Sinclair of Dyer Architects is vice chair of the RIBA practice and profession committee and is editing the Plan of Work