Reviewing the current Plan of Work


Since its development first began in 1963, the RIBA Plan of Work has been the definitive UK model for the building design and construction process, and has also exercised significant influence internationally. The Plan of Work framework has served both the architects’ profession and the wider construction industry well, but although it has been amended over time to reflect developments in design team organisation and alternative procurement arrangements, these changes have generally been incremental rather than strategically driven.

Following the publication of the Green Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work in November 2011, and a companion BIM Overlay in May 2012, the RIBA decided to undertake a fundamental review of the RIBA Outline Plan of Work, to ensure alignment with best practice from all the specialists within the integrated construction team, and to provide a renewed framework which will be fit for purpose for the next generation.

The diagram above shows the first stage of this review, approved by RIBA Council in June 2012, as a comparison against the current RIBA Outline Plan of Work and the CIC Scope of Services.

Key Review Issues

Specific key issues being addressed by this review include:

  • Integrating sustainable design.
  • Mapping BIM processes.
  • Providing flexibility around planning procedures.
  • Addressing changes in the way building services design is delivered.
  • Responding to the recommendations of the UK Government Construction Strategy.
  • Providing straight forward mapping and flexibility for all forms of procurement.

While there are significant strengths in the existing RIBA Plan of Work, and Stages A – D are clearly understood, it has inherent weaknesses including:

  • Stages E and F are not clearly defined, resulting in differing interpretations and outputs.
  • It has its origins in traditional procurement and can become complicated when mapped to innovative procurement methods.
  • Planning is not embedded.
  • ‘Soft landings’ and whole life emphasis is not included.
  • Performance specified work is not covered.

The Review Process

A review group, chaired by Dale Sinclair, was set up comprising representatives from from the RIBA Large and Small Practice Groups, the RIBA Construction Strategy Group, the RIBA Planning Group and the RIBA Sustainable Futures Group, with the remit of addressing these issues and proposing a new Plan of work 2013.

As part of the review, the group published a member consultation document on the 12th July 2012 setting out the reasons and the rationale behind the review, and invited members to contribute their views on the proposals for the RIBA Plan of Work and its future place in the built environment.

The member consultation period ran from the publication on the 12th July to the 12th August 2012, and resulted in nearly 300 member contributions. The questions were designed to capture a view on the size of practice, forms of contract and procurement methods currently used by members, as well as provide some member indication on adoption of new practices (such as BIM) and the alignment of the Plan of Work with other industry standards as well as internationally. A summary of the salient points from the replies received is included here.

 Member Consultation Result Summary

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  1. Nick Mills

    August 30, 2012

    300 responses out a membership of nearly 30,000 is hardly a ringing endorsement for changes to be made. Perhaps the question should have been asked at the outset whether this review is necessary or not, or perhaps this is going to be bulldozed through like so many other changes made by the RIBA over the years. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it….

  2. Mark Fineberg

    November 9, 2012

    I am a member who regularly reads the practise pages of the RIBA journal and the technical and legal sections of the architectural press and I am astonished that I have managed to completely miss any mention of any sort of consultation exercise for the new Plan of Work. Taken in conjunction with the new requirements for project delivery with BIM which also includes Uniclass specification classifications superseding the CAWS and ci/sfb protocols this is a seismic shift in our methods of work that is being imposed on the profession and the construction industry top downwards. Where is the RIBA consultation dialogue publicised? How will the small practitioners assimilate protocols dictated by fast track contractor led conglomerates? Why hasn’t the RIBA Journal explored the implications of this and how has the membership (me included) been allowed to sleepwalk into it?

  3. John Mullan

    January 31, 2013

    The large gap in the table above between Stages 4 and 5 eloquently demonstrates a key characteristic of this new system – procurement has clearly been handed over to other parts of the Project team – I guess we should have seen it coming.

  4. Colin Kerr

    April 25, 2013

    I agree with the above comments entirely. I did respond to the consultation but found out about it almost by chance. I suppose we all wonder at times about the RIBA. By the way the traditional PLan will still be around – we can still use it can we not?

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