The RIBA Plan of Work: Eight Key Project Stages Explained

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

The RIBA Plan of Work 2013 is published by the Royal Institute of British Architects. It also endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, the Royal Society of Architect in Wales, the Royal Society of Ulster Architects and the Construction Industry Council.


The RIBA Plan of Work organises the process of briefing, designing, constructing and operating building projects into eight key project stages, detailing the tasks and outputs required at each stage.


It was first available in 1963 as a fold out sheet demonstrating the roles of participants in design and construction in the format of a simple matrix. It has evolved through its history to reflect the increasing complexity of projects, ever-changing regulatory requirements and industry demands, and government criticism. The latest version has moved online as a downloadable PDF and has become far more flexible, with stages such as procurement and planning permission being movable and matters surrounding BIM and sustainability coming into consideration.


NOVO are regularly appointed to carry out consultancy and design of the mechanical and electrical services involved in various projects, often at the Stage 4 Technical Design level of the RIBA Plan of Work.  The plan provides universal milestones, allowing us to better communicate our progress with our clients and subcontractors.


The eight key stages of the Plan of Work are detailed below.


Stage 0: Strategic Definition

During this first stage, the client’s business case, strategic brief and other core project requirements are identified. Initial considerations are made for assembling the project team. The Project Programme is established after a review of several sites. The consultants, in collaboration with the client, can properly define the scope for a project and the Preparation and Briefing process can then begin.


Stage 1: Preparation and Brief

In order to maximise the productivity of Stage 2 Concept Design, several parallel and significant activities need to be carried out throughout Stage 1.

This includes the development of the initial Project Brief and any related feasibility studies. The Project Team is assembled, and each party’s roles are defined. When preparing the initial Project Brief, it is necessary to consider the desired project outcomes (potentially derived following feedback from earlier and similar projects), the project’s budget, and the site itself (by undertaking site appraisals and collating site information).

A project risk assessment is required at this stage, and the procurement strategy and Project Programme should be developed.


Stage 2: Concept Design

The Concept Design represents the design team’s initial response to the project brief. Throughout Stage 2, the initial Concept Design is produced in line with the requirements of the initial Project Brief. The Project Team develops a number of Project Strategies including the sustainability, maintenance, operational and handover strategies. These strategies consider post-occupancy and operational issues along with the consideration of buildability. Third party consultants are essential at this stage. The brief is revisited, updated and issued as the Final Project Brief, as part of the Information Exchange at the end of Stage 2.


Stage 3: Developed Design

Concept Design is further developed, and the design work of the core designers is progressed. By the end of Stage 3, the architectural, building services and structural engineering designs will all have been developed and will have been checked by the lead designer. The Cost Information is to be aligned to the Project Budget.


Project Strategies that were prepared in Stage 2 should be developed and detailed, allowing the client to signed them off once the lead designer has checked each strategy and verified that the Cost Information incorporates sufficient allowances.


Stage 4: Technical Design

The lead designer co-ordinates the preparation of the technical design, as this may involve design by specialist subcontractors as well as the client’s core design team. By the end of this stage the architectural, structural and mechanical services design and specifications should describe all main components of the building and how they fit together, and any performance specified work should be defined.


Stage 5: Construction

During this stage, the building is constructed on site in accordance with the Construction Programme. This includes the erection of components that have been fabricated off site. The procurement strategy will have set out the designer’s duties to respond to design queries from site generated in relation to the design.


Stage 6: Handover and Close Out

The project team will facilitate the successful handover of the building in line with the Project Programme and conclude all aspects of the building contract. Other services may be required at this point which will be dictated by the project specific schedules of services. This should be aligned with the procumbent and handover strategies.


Stage 7: In Use

This new stage of the RIBA Plan of Work acknowledges the potential benefits of harnessing the project design information to assist with the successful use and operation of the building.


The RIBA Plan of Work 2013 is a free, downloadable resource available online. Head to https://www.ribaplanofwork.com/ for more information.  

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NOVO Integration Ltd are a Leeds-based team of dedicated M&E consultants offering low-carbon, forward-thinking building services solutions across all sectors. 

Experts in the efficient and compliant design of all MEP systems within a building, we are also accredited to provide sustainability certification and consultancy from RIBA Stage 0 to 7. 

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