Friday04 September 2015

Is the RIBA right to overhaul its Plan of Work?

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Yes, says Dale Sinclair, it is no longer tailored to the way we work today; while Mark Newall says the general membership should have been consulted

Architect's drawing board.

Source: IStock

Are architects ready to throw out the old tools and update how they work?


Dale Sinclair
Director of Dyer and editor of RIBA Plan of Work 2013

The RIBA Plan of Work is 50 years old. It has served us well but it is no longer tailored to the modern construction industry. The UK government has many initiatives under way relating to briefing, deliverables and project outcomes. If the RIBA fails to embrace and contribute to these initiatives, the RIBA Plan of Work will, simply, be replaced by other industry documents. Updating it is an opportunity for architects to provide leadership to the industry: we need a Plan appropriate to the information age.

The current Plan of Work was developed on the basis of a traditional procure-ment model; however, the RIBA’s consultation revealed that 40% of practitioners regularly use D&B forms. The time has come to recognise this. RIBA Plan of Work 2013 is a template that allows the creation of a more specific project or practice plan of work. The generic template
is procurement-neutral; the specific plans are procurement route-focused.

Technology has changed other sectors, and design professions will not be immune to similar change. That said, new technologies are already delivering excellent, more complex designs. Clients like what they see and they want more. We need to be advocates for better information: the right information delivered at the right time, integrated on the “drawing board” rather than on site. Bim can be harnessed to our advantage.

RIBA Plan of Work 2013 is suitable for large or small projects and traditional or non-traditional procurement. It dovetails with forthcoming RIBA initiatives such as the Better Briefing: Better Buildings Guide. We simply cannot miss this opportunity.


Mark Newall
Partner, Baart Harries Newall Architects

We are just waking up to the fact the RIBA is changing the Plan of Work, and are horrified by the proposals. I have Googled a consultation document that explains how the RIBA “has been consulting with a number of other RIBA expert member groups and a range of internal and external stakeholders”. How about consulting the general membership before taking such a radical step?

The document says the current work stages are well understood but have some weaknesses; why not update them to address these issues, without tearing them up? It is also said to be a disadvantage that the work stages have their origins in traditional procurement; 90% of our workload is constructed by traditional procurement.

Lastly, the old Stage D has been extended partly into Stage E. There is an industry-wide understanding that our earliest (and largest) stage payment is charged at completion of Stage D. This is right and proper, as the ability to imagine and design the project remains our unique skill. While the formal link with fee scales and stage payments was broken
in the 1990s, this is still widely recognised today. The abolition of Stage D would undermine this last vestigial linkage.

The work stages are embedded in our entire suite of document templates for client agreements, fee structure, cash flow, professional indemnity insurance and, worst of all, our QA Manual. As with the RIBA Form of Appointment, each successive revision complicates the document and erodes its utility.

We will continue to use SFA/99 and the work stages that are embedded in that document.

We have recently seen Arb rightly castigated for expanding their remit, but the RIBA is out there on its own — operating in complete isolation from its membership.


Readers' comments (8)

  • Munter Roe

    Greening is a con. Housebuilders didn't buy into any green movement Paul. As usual it was forced on them by big europe. The quality of new developments are terrible, don't kid yourself.

    Another thing, I do love consultation and public opinion stats being bandied about. I for one have never been consulted or asked for my opinon.

    Well said Mark Newall, this lot of meddlers will not be happy until senseless change is made to all aspects of our lives. Why does 'change' always result in more work and more cost?

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  • Vinesh Pomal

    With all due respect Mark, I'm pretty sure that RIBA members had the opportunity to voice their views in a consultation form they sent out some time ago. It was a news article in a RIBA newsletter. I'm a RIBA student member (hopefully becoming a full member soon) and was able to share my views on this.

    However I do agree with your view that the majority of practices are still constructing with a traditional procurement route where as the new Plan of Work is perhaps tailored towards other procurement routes. In saying that, it's good that the new Plan of Work can begin to facilitate the opportunity to work together with the other disciplines in the construction industry.

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  • Munter Roe

    Very PC answer Vinesh.

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  • I completely agree with reforming the plan of work, in fact I think we should get rid of it completely. It promotes a cookie cutter attitude towards how we structure our services which stifles innovation. It's not client focussed and doesn't reflect the flexibility of new technology and more multidisciplinary design practices.

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  • zecks_marquise

    It should have been reformed following the Latham/Egan reports but wasn't because RIBA is a law unto itself.

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  • The 2013 Plan of Work has been consulted on, and any RIBA members with views and comments to make have had plenty of opportunity to inform the drafts earlier this year, either by their elected RIBA Councillors or via the member consultation, and if some members don't read their RIBA emails then that is hardly the RIBA's fault. It will be a change for us, but I'm sure we will cope as our profession is all about change, and it gives us a new opportunity to try and re-educate clients what to realistically expect for each stage.

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  • It's worth saying that although I support the review, Warren Whyte is not really being fair in blaming members for not responding. The Plan of Work consultation was mentioned in a small below the line article in the 12th July Member's Update email, which personally I didn't pick up. It was then headlined in the 9th August update with the consultation closing on the 12th August. I wouldn't describe 3 days in the middle of the summer holidays as 'plenty of opportunity to inform the drafts'.

    As I say, I support this but I think members saying they weren't aware and don't feel consulted have a fair point, and shouldn't be subject to criticism.

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  • Lets face up to it at the end of the day!! The client holds the purse strings. Naturally everyone would prefer to procure contracts in an audible fashion.
    Anthony Doody MCIAT
    Chartered Architectural Technologist

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