RIBA Plan of Work 2020 – A Fellows Perspective

Has it really been 7 years since the last major overhaul to the RIBA Plan of Work? It certainly has, and in order to maintain its position as the industry’s go-to framework for defining the stage by stage breakdown of construction projects, the RIBA has recently updated its toolkit. As project and cost managers, we should keep at-pace with developments of best practice guidance; so what do these updates to the Plan of Work (PoW) mean for us and our profession?

Firstly, it is useful to remember that the PoW ‘poster’ is really only a signpost; giving brief prompts of the considerations to make at each stage. The project manager should use this as an illustrative aid alongside the more comprehensive guidance document in order to plan and manage the team convincingly.

Four themes are at the forefront of the updated PoW: 1). The sustainable project strategy, 2). Procurement procedures, 3). The planning process and 4). The stage-to-stage information exchange.

If we begin by focussing on the updates to the project sustainability strategy, RIBA were prompted to emphasise this within the toolkit, following the Government’s commitment in 2019 to becoming net carbon zero by 2050. The PoW carries this theme from the outset and provides the reader with the cues as to how to bring the targets associated with a client’s sustainability agenda to the fore. The aim of this is to best ensure the project succeeds in realising these targets when the building is in-use by threading this in from the point the client drafts the initial brief.

The second most notable update is the enhanced prominence on procurement options. The PoW poster now provides helpful indicators on what information is required and when, depending on one of five main procurement routes that can be followed. While this will be nothing new to the project manager, I would imagine for other members of the team, or indeed the client, it is providing a useful ‘heads up’ at the beginning of a project, as to when the interests of bidding contractors will be introduced and the information they will require to participate in the process effectively.

At the bottom of the PoW poster, we now see lists of the recommended outputs to be expected at the close of each stage. Those terms which are capitalised and in bold text are what the RIBA refer to as “core procedures, processes and tools” and its guidance document describes these in more detail. Having these listed out is useful when developing the project strategy, which is the project manager’s methodology to executing the project. The project manager should ensure they have the necessary project controls in place to deliver on these, but also that the professional team are appointed to support these where necessary – the roles and responsibilities matrix will set this out.

These updates are certainly positive, providing broader guidance to professional teams on the expected outputs throughout each stage. Whilst it is unlikely the changes will be entirely new information to the project manager, the document leaves less down to individual interpretation and intuition of the project team, which can only be a good thing.

The constant progression of digital innovation in construction could leave some to sweat in the added layers of complexity, therefore getting the basics right in terms of management of information becomes more fundamental than it has ever been. Using the updated PoW poster and guidance document as an aide memoir will certainly enable us to carry out our duties with rigour and best serve out clients and professional teams through the process.

We at Fellows are here to discuss your own thoughts on these updates, or indeed explain them in further detail. Please feel free to drop us an email or give us a call to discuss