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Plan of work
Dale Sinclair and Adrian Dobson outline how the RIBA got to its Plan of Work 2013
First developed in 1963, the RIBA Plan of Work is the definitive UK model for the design and construction process, and exercises significant international influence. The RIBA Plan of Work framework has served the architects’ profession and 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 and reactive to changing circumstances rather than strategically driven.  The RIBA Plan of Work 2013, which will be launched in the spring, is the result of a fundamental review of the Plan, and a determination to ensure that it not only reflects the very best principles in contemporary practice but also that the RIBA continues to show strategic leadership at a time of rapid change in the industry.

Need to update
RIBAJ asked Dale Sinclair, chair of the RIBA Plan of Work Review Group, and Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice, about the changes being made to this core document.

RIBAJ:  Why has the RIBA decided that now is the right moment to review the PoW?
AD:  The PoW is now half a century old and was conceived at a time when the regulatory framework for building design and construction, industry structures and procurement arrangements were simpler and more fixed, and very different to those we see today.  The publication of the UK Government Construction Strategy gave the RIBA an impetus to take a guiding role in shaping a set of unified work stages to be used by all the members of the design and construction team.  This is a once in a generation chance to update the industry’s process model to address key changes in areas such as procurement, town planning, sustainability, BIM and construction delivery.

RIBA J: What has the review process involved?
DS:  The PoW Review Group was established by the Practice and Profession Committee at the beginning of 2012, with representation from the Large and Small Practice Groups, Construction Strategy Group, Planning Group and Sustainable Futures Group, to bring forward initial proposals for the 2013 Plan. The review group consulted during the course of the year with other RIBA expert member groups and a range of internal and external stakeholders, and feedback from these sessions has been an essential part of the development work.  We also worked closely with other professional institutes through the Construction Industry Council (CIC) to ensure that the unified industry work stages are robust and supported by  the broader construction industry.  In summer 2012, through the RIBA Member e-bulletin, we held a web-based consultation which enabled us to refine the proposals further before presenting them to Council. More than 250 members responded.

Emerging issues
RIBA J:  What issues emerged from the member consultation?
AD:  The responses showed that there is a huge variety in both scope of services and the procurement approach from project to project, while at the same time more than 80% of architects still frequently use traditional procurement arrangements.   It became very clear that RIBA PoW 2013 needed to offer both flexibility to suit a diversity of project arrangements and a clear and easily navigable route map for traditionally procured projects and mainstream small practice work.  The trend of submitting planning applications prior to the end of stage D was also identified as a core issue.

RIBA J:  Is it really possible for RIBA PoW 2013 to be usable on small or large projects alike?
DS:  The consultation suggested that most smaller projects are undertaken using traditional procurement processes. The revised PoW allows a practice- or project-specific PoW to be generated based on traditional or non-traditional procurement methods, but derived from the same template format, facilitating flexibility within a consistent overall framework.  At the heart of PoW will be a customisable electronic document which can be adapted to suit the specific needs of a practice.

RIBA J:  Were there any other hot topics in the consultation?
AD:  One of the challenges in developing the 2013 PoW has been covering all the necessary subjects in a succinct way.  A very clear message was the need to avoid jargon and we have been striving to ensure that plain English is employed throughout.  A glossary of terms has been developed to provide clarity about specific documents and tasks. 
Next month’s issue will look at the key innovations and impact of the RIBA Plan of Work 2013