The Ultimate Guide to RIBA’s Process for Architects [Infographic]

The Work of Plan constructed by the Royal Institute for British Architects has become an unwritten industry standard.

Not just British Architects rely on the 8 phase design and construction plan.

Whether you are new to the concept or looking to refresh your RIBA knowledge here is the Ultimate Guide for you!

What is RIBA?

Logo for the Royal Institute for British Architects
 [RIBA Logo]  – [Data Broker]

The RIBA is the Royal Institute for British Architects who developed the first plan of work back in 1963.

The aim of the plan was to provide an outline model for the building design and construction process in the UK.

For half a decade the plan has consistently been adapted to changes in the industry until it got completely revised in 2013.

The new plan of work is set to be the updated standard of procedure.

8 detailed phases lay out the path from initiation of a project all the way to the completion of a building and ribbon cutting.

The revised plan further includes a phase dealing with the occupied building and maintenance. 

Simplified Plan of Work 2013
  [RIBA Plan of Work Simplified]  – [Architecture for London]

The phases are

The phases are categorized in 5 areas of the project:

No architect is forced to follow the rules set out by RIBA, although it has become a universal standard. 

This guide will explain the most recent Plan of Work and provide a detailed explanation of each step. 

What changed?

RIBA's Plan of Work 2013
 [RIBA Plan of Work 2013]  – [RIBA Plan of Work]

One of the significant changes in the 2013 model is that it aligns to more than just the traditional procurement route. 

While the majority of architects still use the traditional contractual agreements other sorts, like the Design and Build forms of procedure have also grown in popularity. 

The new WoP is flexible to fit the new trends in the industry.
On the website of the RIBA it is possible to create a custom work of plan to fit the desired procurement route.

The 2007 RIBA’S Plan of Work consisted of 11 steps lettered from A to L. 
The 2013 RIBA’S Plan of Work is divided into 8 stages numbered 0-7, to avoid confusion to the previous phases. 

Adapting to the changes in the industry, the new phases are also BIM ready, mapping out the processes.
If you are unfamiliar with BIM, there are helpful videos explaining the process.

The Plan of Work introduces a new flexibility when it comes to (Town)-planning.

The 2013 recognized the need to make a plan adaptable to different sizes and scopes of projects to ensure the best experience for both ends of the contract. 

Through adjustable templates their website, the plan can be completely fitted to the scale of the project.

Section of RIBA's Plan of Work 2013
  [RIBA Plan of Work 2013]  – [RIBA Plan of Work]

The tasks marked *Variable can be adjusted to the 3 P’s Procurement, Programme and Planning.

The 8 Phases

To demonstrate the process of construction through a real life example, we will show the project Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architects in Edinburgh.

The project started in 2006 and has won multiple design awards since opening in 2012.

Some examples for the design process are not publicly available and will be shown through other project.

0 – Strategic Definition

Phase 0 RIBA's Plan of Work

One of the new additions to the 2013 Plan of Work is the first step of the cycle. 

During the strategic definition it is the suppliers goal to properly consider the clients Business Case and Strategic Brief, before creating the Initial Project Brief in Phase 1.

A Business Case is the client’s rationale behind the initiation of a new building project. 

This can be anything from a simple spoken request, to a detailed written proposal, explaining what exactly they want from this project.

The architect is to thoroughly go through the wishes and intentions of the client before they can work on the Project Brief

Together they are able to properly define the scope of the project and go into the preparation process more prepared. 

The business case often includes first cost evaluations and discussing the sites available for the project. This phase is particularly important in terms of sustainability, for example if it would benefit for a building to undergo refurbishment rather than be built new.

An example of a new refurbishment boom are first-tier cities in China.
There, no more land is being released for development, driving the industry towards refurbishment of old building instead. 
Factors influencing this can be aspects like budget, local planning policies and building context. 

Initial considerations of all team members for the projects are being considered, to create the best work force possible. 

The Project Program is also being established.

This outlines the projected length of the project and how briefing, design and construction phases are going to be distributed in this time frame. 

The only people involved at this stage are the client and the architect.
No information exchange with the government is necessary yet.

Summary Phase 0:

1 – Preparation and Brief

The main goal of the second stage, or Phase 1 (not to get confused) is to produce the Project Initiation Document (PID)

The PID includes the Initial Project Brief and a Feasibility Report, as well as the Client Brief and Business Case from the previous phase. 

The PID is what is being used to gain funding for feasibility studies. 

This stage is important to ensure that the Concept design in Phase 2 can be as productive as possible.

1.1 Objectives

The Initial Project Brief lays out the main Project Objectives, such as:

The quality objectives are the objectives that set out the quality aspects of the project.
Size and location of the project are defined 

The demanded project outcomes have been discussed in the first stage.

How long it takes to produce the PID fully depends on the scope of the project and special requests that need to be considered. 

Depending on the project it can be relevant to contact local authorities pre-appointment.This will make future engagement easier and help guide the design from early on. 
Local architect should be contacted to get familiar with local policies. 

Who’s in charge of creating the project team depends on the contract between architect and client.

1.2 Contract

The relationship is established as a Contractual Tree:

It is required to create an initial Risk Assessment

Once the Initial Project Brief and Feasibility Report have been completed the Project Initiation Document is finished and the project can move into the design phases. (2 – 4)

Client meeting with architects
  [First Meeting]  – [ByRawPixel]

Summary Phase 1:

2 – Concept Design

The project is now in the first of 3 design phases.

The goal of this phase is to produce a Final Concept Design.

2.1 First drafts

This is the first time the client gets to see a visual representation made from the Project Brief.

The visual can be anything from drawings to models designed to show the aesthetics of the project including:

General procedure is that the client receives 3 different concept proposals for the construction.
They can be similar or completely different.

Design sketch
[Sketch]  – [DPSDesign]

The client then gets to choose which proposal fits their needs the best by combining elements from all designs. 

2.2 Final Concept Design

When the final design has been agreed on the architects begin with the design.
This includes for example: 

The drawings should be 1 to 50/500 (Adjustable to project needs)

Ariel View of Masterplan for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Ariel View of Masterplan]  – [Edinburgh Government]

For example: 

Part of the drawings are: 

For example: 

Large scale drawings are helpful in seeing how a building is going to function in its location.

It is essential to revisit the brief during this stage and it should be updated and issued as the Final Project Brief as part of the Information Exchange at the end of Stage 2.

2.3 Hand In

The final design has to be prepared for hand in to the client. 
This includes:

The drawings move up to a scale of 1 to 100/200

Masterplan for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
[Masterplan]  – [Oberlanders]

Concept Design Checklist


Tells you how your designs to the surroundings.
Provides other information such as square meters, walls, size of plot, relation of what is indoor and outdoor. 

For Example:

Masterplan for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Masterplan]  – [Oberlanders]
Blueprint framework for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Framework Strategy]  – [Oberlanders]


Prodive the vertical visual aesthetic of your design
-It’s the exterior shell, the view from the outside

For example:

Elevation for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Elevation of New Fountainbridge 1]  – [Approved Development Brief]
Elevations for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Elevation of New Fountainbridge 2]  – [Approved Development Brief]


Future drawing (the design in context of what it would look like once it’s build)
-3D mock up

1 render of the building in colour:

CAD outside for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [CAD Outside]  – [Oberlanders]
Render Outside for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Render Outside Detailed]  – [7Narchitects]

1 render of the interior:

1 render of how it relates to the landscape and surroundings:

Render Inside for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
[Render Inside Detailed]  – [7Narchitects]
Design Street View for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Design Street View]  – [Edinburgh Architecture]
Render of Surrounding for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Render of Surroundings]  – [Edinburgh Reporter]

Situation plan:

What’s around it (access to it)
1 to 1500 to 1 to 5,000 (Adjustable to project needs)

-View from above showing the land around it

Location for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architect
 [Location of Fountainbridge]  – [Oberlanders]

The following types of design were not available from Oberlanders Architects and are shown by other project examples:


Provide you with the vertical elements of the building

For example:

Sections for Yale Art and Architecture Building by Paul Rudolph
 [Sections]  – [ArchDaily]


Technical 3D View of the design for the entire building Visualization of a plan 

For Example:

Axonometric View for Casa Sophie by A-53
[Axonometric View Casa Sophie]  – [A-53]

Physical models

Can be any size, helps demonstrate the final product in a more tangible way

Wood model for FCB Cornwall by FCB Studios
[Wood Model FCB Cornwall]  – [FCBStudios]

In the past years using Virtual Reality has been introduced as a way to show clients the designs in 3D. 
This might set of properly once the technology further advances.

2.4 Permits and permissions:

Local planning authorities need to be consulted to obtain permits and permissions needed.

Things to consider are:

Feedback from the consultations may result in changes to the design. 

The length of Phase 2 is depending on the scale and complexity of the project

2.5 Cost Plan

With the finished design the elemental cost plan for the project can be produced. This lays out all assumptions, abnormal costs and whole-life costs.

Summary Phase 2:

3 – Developed Design

The main goals of this phase are to produce a Final Design to be send to authorities and approved.

The architectural, building services and structural engineering designs will be finished by the end of phase 3. 

With the Final design approved the Cost plan can be determined and aligned to the Project Budget.

It usually involved the planning application, but due to the flexibility of the 2013 PoW, it can vary across the phases. 

In phase 3 the design is further developed. 
Visualisations are moved to a 1 to 20/50 scale depending on the project scale.
The designs produced now are dimensionally correct and co-ordinated as CAD-drawings.

Models should show:

Building System Services:

Structure of the Building – Type Selection

Changes during this phase are usually documented. 

The chosen materials and dimensions can give an accurate estimate of the cost plan.

Changes in this phase are often made to adjust to the project budget.
The cost estimation is where things tend to go wrong.

Avoid these common errors for the closest estimate possible:

Phase 3 is usually when the planning application is being submitted to the responsible authorities. 

The detailed drawings and reports are to be included in the application.

A planning application can include:

Further factors depend on location and scale of the project.

Summary Phase 3:

4 – Technical Design

The goal of Phase 4 is to prepare the detailed technical designs for the building. 

In the end of the stage the designs should include all architectural, structural and building services information.
This includes any design for specialist subcontractors and specifications.

All designs are to align with the Design programme and Design Responsibility Matrix.

4.1 Detailed Drawing

The Lead and Construction architect come together to produce detailed drawings of the designs. 

The scale of detail now goes from 1 to 1 up to 1 to 20.

Technical Design by Red Squirrel Architecture
 [Example Technical Design]  – [Red Squirrel Architecture]

How detailed each designer has to get depends on whether the construction will be built according to the design team or based on information given by a specialist subcontractor.

The drawings now include things like electrical outputs, insulation and other specifics. 

Depending on the project, all needed engineers are subcontracted and work alongside the Lead and Construction architects.

At this stage the overall design of the building does not change anymore. 

The Design team is expected to work on their part individually, according to the designs set out in the previous stages. 

It is possible that the design team has to respond to queries that arise during the construction phase.

Once the detailed designs are finished the Architects hand it over to the Project Manager.

It is important to regularly check in with the authorities during this phase.

4.2 Tender

If the supplier has already been chosen it is their responsibility to create their own supply chain.

For this they have to prepare tender documentation and their own version of the employer’s information requirements

If the supplier hasn’t been chosen the tender documentation and pre-tender estimate now have to be produced in order to tender the construction contract. 

4.3 Contractors

All contractors are reviews, new ones are chosen, approved and contracted out.
Who is responsible for appointing all subcontractors depends on the original contract between Architect and Client.

The Lead architect and Project manager approve all selections of contractors and discuss these with the client for his approval. 

Summary Phase 4:

5 – Construction

The goal of phase 5 is the offsite manufacturing and onsite construction of the building.
All construction is according to the designs produced in the previous stages.

The Design Team still has to respond to design queries arising during this stage. 

5.1 Construction and Building

Construction site for Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architects
 [Fountainbridge Construction]  – [Valentin Hunzinger]

The Architect’s role during construction depends on the contract. 

Traditionally the client appoints the contractor who is responsible for the work onsite.

The architect firm usually offers a Contract administration service to oversee that the work is according to the programme through regular visits. 

The contract administrator deals with:

Completed Building Springside Fountainbridge by Oberlanders Architects
 [Springside Fountainbridge]  – [Oberlanders]

5.2 Health and Safety

Local inspectors review and observe the site to make sure all health and safety laws are being followed

Summary Phase 5:

6 – Handover and Closeout

The goal of phase 6 is the handover of the completed building and the conclusion of the building contract.

The client is now able to occupy the building.

For 6 to 12 months, also called Defect Liability Period, the contractor is still responsible for any defects on the property. 

6.1 Report

At the end of construction, a report is produced covering the contractors, errors, accidents, incidents of waste/loss. 

The contract administrator is issuing his final report on the construction. 

In some cases the client may keep a retention sum for the contractor unit the Defect Liability Period is over. This ensures that the contractor does his job. 

6.2 Inauguration and official opening

The completed site is visited by the client and other relevant parties. 

All members of the Project Team are invited and the building is officially ‘In-Use’.

Often includes an official Red Ribbon Cutting ceremony and champagne.

Ribbon Cutting event for the opening of Treasure Island by Saint Paul Port Authority
 [Grand Opening of Treasure Island]  – [Saint Paul Port Authority]

Summary Phase 6:

7 – In Use

This is the second new addition to the RIBA’s Plan of Work 2013, and aims to provide an aftercare service to the client and the building. 

The service provided to the client can include for example:

Sometimes it’s necessary to pass on expert knowledge in order for the building to be used properly.

This especially applies when it comes to sustainability. 

The ‘end of life’ of a building can be part of Phase 7 or considered part of the Phase 0 of a new construction cycle.

In this case it’s considered whether the development can be reused by refurbishing it or has to be demolished.

This stage is what united the phases of the plan into a cycle of development.

Phase 7 Summary:

RIBA Plan of Work Concluded

The Plan of Work is recognised internationally as standard procedure.

While no one is expected to use it, by doing so you can play it safe.

“Unless they are inappropriate, use the RIBA forms of Appointment” – A Guide to Keeping out of Trouble.

The guide allows to simplify the project to both architects and clients, and increases the communication between both parties.

Need help getting started?

We worked through the red tape and bureaucracy so you don’t have to.

In most cases you must complete some official forms for the Building and Residency Register (BBR forms) together with the building application for the municipality.

Visit your municipality’s website and find the correct forms to be filled in. Here, and at BBR.dk , you can also read more about the review and application for construction work.

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