A radically different approach to design and contract management implied in the 2013 version of the RIBA’s Plan of Work – due to be published in February or March – has been broadly welcomed in the construction world, albeit with significant caveats, writes Stephen Cousins.
RIBA plans to abolish its 50-year-old traditional schema covering Plan of Work stages A to L and replace it with a seven-point schedule in a bid to integrate practices across the industry and accommodate modern collaboration and BIM.
The schedule was developed by a review group chaired by Dyer Architects’ Dale Sinclair and is supported by the Construction Industry Council. A consultation process was completed over the summer and the new version is expected to be published this spring.
Instead of the familiar terminology of Stages A-L, the new version is based on just seven stages: preparation, concept design, developed design, technical design, specialist design, construction and use and after care. The categories are designed to align with process models published by other professional organisations, such as ACE, BSRIA, CIOB, CIBSE, ICE and RICS, as well as work stages proposed by the CIC.
“This is a groundbreaking event for the industry, a fundamental shift that will mean all plans of work offered by different institutes fit within the same framework and for the first time everyone will be talking the same language,” said John Eynon FCIOB of BIM and design management consultancy Open Water.
The new version was also welcomed by Dr Gregor Harvie, architect and project management consultant, and a founder of the www.designingbuildings.co.uk wiki website. “An overhaul of the existing system was long overdue. The old version, last updated in 2007, was very rigid and focused on the traditional contract form. Since then, innovative working methods such as sustainable practice have become widely adopted, there is more integration and collaborative working, and early involvement of specialists.”
But he also feared its introduction would be followed by a period of confusion, as dropping the terminology associated with the RIBA Plan of Work could create problems, he said.
“The names of each of the stages are used to define appointment agreements, agree stage payments, and many firms use them to quote fees, so changing them will have a significant impact. Among other things, they want to drop the recognised stages Production Information and Practical Completion and replace them with Preparation and Use & Aftercare, which is very vague and will mean re-educating industry and clients that have taken decades to acquire the established terminology.”
The new schedule is meant to improve transparency of project information, particularly on BIM-enabled projects, and be more readily adaptable to different procurement methods. It will place greater emphasis on the integration of design and production information.
“The industry’s move into a BIM environment is definitely driving this,” said Eynon. “It will make it a lot more straightforward for someone accessing a BIM model to identify the specific stage of the project and check and validate it. For example, a contractor receiving a stage 2 BIM model will understand what it should contain and the BIM tools needed to test and validate it. It will improve transparency during design, tendering and construction.”
Chris Harding, chairman of architect BDP, endorsed the proposed system. “The revamp is just reflecting the way people are already working, or need to work, and it’s going to help them. The new system is much more geared to new methods of working, BIM and contractors working collaboratively and getting engaged earlier.”