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15th January Journal Column

By Tim Bailey, founding partner of xsite architecture and board member of Constructing Excellence in the North East

History shows us that shifts in the economy and society can impact on what we build and how we build it. However, as nobody can predict the exact shape of things to come, those working in the built environment sector must use their skill to interpret these complex changes and to understand what people really need and want.

Naturally everyone should do their best to ensure a project meets both the client’s needs and stacks up commercially, which is why I believe collaboration is the only way to achieve construction quality viably in a cost-constrained world – especially in public projects where value for money is critical.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work (PoW) was first introduced over 50 years ago, with a recent shake up in 2013 introducing new work stages, terminology and a new stage referencing system.

The framework helps explain to clients briefing, design, construction and post-occupancy processes and is a springboard for tools and supplementary core documents, including services appointments, scope of services and project protocol documents and building contract forms.

The newly launched PoW, which I recently produced for RIBA, aims to help architects find the keys to unlocking opportunities and developing the essential relationship between themselves and clients. I’m all for anything that can make processes easier and I fully believe the PoW has the potential to do so; here are eight reasons why I think it makes good business sense:

  1. If you explain the process to clients and demonstrate the eight work stages and eight task bars, you can illustrate what is to come and the scope of service you are offering
  2. You should organise your own output into the PoW stages because, for the vast majority of construction professionals, their work falls into a predictable pattern
  3. If you use the PoW to illustrate your role in each project stage, it will provide clarity on fee structure
  4. PoW illustrates programme – and the effect of delays can be clearly seen, which will support claims for additional resource or accelerated working
  5. PoW exerts control of the design processes, so designers can use it to demonstrate the value of sequential and iterative design stages
  6. It reinforces the utilisation of project strategies – work stage task lists encourage robust discipline which results in successful project delivery
  7. Use the information exchanges to force a complete and timely record of progress through the project – this is an excellent way to demonstrate the value of the design team
  8. Encourage whole process mentality using the PoW to document the journey already taken – this will help to put each day’s jobs into the context of the entire programme for the whole design team

There’s huge potential out there and the future is full of opportunity – to unlock it, the profession must adapt to clients’ needs and demonstrate added value. The PoW is just one of many ways to unlock opportunities and develop relationships with clients, and we would be silly not to take full advantage of it.


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